When Chad Morris and John Chavis began looking for John Scott Jr.’s replacement they had two main priorities. Hire a coach that would work well with defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell and get somebody with solid recruiting credentials. Kenny Ingram turned out to be a perfect fit.
Ingram, who comes to Arkansas from Gus Malzahn’s staff at Auburn where where he served as the Director of Player Relations for the last two years, has a previous relationship with Caldwell.
Not too many people know this but he (Caldwell) was my position coach when I played at Arkansas State,” Ingram revealed. “He’s someone I respect and someone that had an influence in my life in the role that he had at that time so I appreciate that and I appreciate having the opportunity to work with him.”
Ingram will coach Arkansas’ defensive tackles and will work closely with Caldwell who seemed thrilled by the hire.
“We’re both on the same page with what we teach technique wise so that’s not going to be a big adjustment for him or for us,” Caldwell noted. “It’s an easy adjustment, again, because of his background and our background together.”
Even though he had an off the field position at Auburn Ingram has experience as a defensive line coach at Tennessee State, Cincinnati and Arkansas State. Chavis believes he will prove to be a soild addition to the staff.
“Number one, we wanted to hire a great man,” Chavis revealed. “Number two we wanted to hire a great coach and we were able to do that.”
The chance to return to hands-on coaching came at the right time for Ingram who said, “Man it’s exciting. That’s where my passion is. I’m passionate about coaching. I’m excited about this opportunity. Just looking forward to it.”
“I’ve had a chance to meet with some of the guys,” Ingram continued. “It was great meeting with those guys. We talked about some things and I’m getting to know them, building relationships with them. Just breaking the ice with them.”
Two players in particular have already caught his attention: McTelvin Agim and T.J. Smith
“I’ll tell you this here, man. I got a chance to visit with both of those guys yesterday,” Ingram said with a smile. “T.J. has been communicating with me through texts. He’s looked through teaching tapes and things and kind of talked about some things. He texted me and said, ‘Hey, listen, I liked what you did here, I liked that you did this,’ so he’s excited about having the opportunity. When you see that already, it makes me excited.”
“It was important for him to be in a place where he felt good about the people that he was going to be around,” Chavis stressed.
“You want to be around people you know, who you’re comfortable with,” Ingram acknowledged. “So they did their due diligence and just getting to know me and finding out about me.”
So what put Ingram on Arkansas’ radar screen especially since he was not coaching at the time?
“Well, Kevin Steele, our (Auburn’s) defensive coordinator, he reached out to coach Chavis. I got a chance to talk with him and it just kind of went from there and a lot of praying and fasting,” Ingram said with a chuckle. “I tell you this. They were very thorough in this process of hiring. The thing that coach Chavis told me from the beginning that was going to be important to him was to get to know me as a person. So we did a lot of talking on the phone, a lot of communication.”
The hire also turned out to be a perfect fit from a recruiting standpoint. Ingram played high school football at Whitehaven High School in Memphis and later was the head coach at Melrose High School in Memphis from 2002-04. A three-time Regional Coach of the Year and the Commercial Appeal’s 2004 Coach of the Year for Metro Memphis, Ingram led the Golden Wildcats to a 37-4 overall record.
“Kenny’s a legend in Memphis,” Chavis said when asked about the impact Ingram should have there. “Everybody knows him.”
“Oh yes, I’m born and raised in Memphis,” Ingram acknowledged. “I love my city. I love where I’m from. All my family’s there. I know a lot of people there. So I’m thankful to have that opportunity.”
Jumping back into coaching may be exciting for Ingram but he’s now part of a staff that had just two wins in its first season in Fayetteville. Does he have any concerns about that?
“To be honest with you, we were having our own problems where we were at,” Ingram pointed out. “I was trying to focus on how I could add value to where I was at. But looking on it, just knowing the people that were here, the coaches that were here, I had no doubt that whatever they had to do they would be able to do it. They have a lot of experience. But more important you have people that are professional, who do things the right way. Who have the right heart and they have the kids in mind. It was something that I desired to be a part of.”
Ingram appears to be a two for one hire. Arkansas got a D-line coach that is a natural fit with the current staff and a recruiter that knows Memphis, a priority for Morris, like the back of his hand.
Spring football for the Razorbacks begins Friday March the 1st. The annual Red-White football game is set for April 6th.