By Otis Kirk
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas has a brutal challenge ahead of it on Saturday when they play No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
But the look into Arkansas’ program goes much deeper than possibly losing a road game at the nation’s best team. Alabama has won 88 games in a row against unranked teams so anyone thinking the Tide will be looking ahead can probably forget that.
The truth is Arkansas has been 4-8 (2017), 2-10 (2018) and now are 2-5 heading into the Alabama game. That is eight wins in 2 1/2 seasons.
Everyone has an opinion on what it will take to get the program turned around. Junior running back Rakeem Boyd leads the Hogs with 119 carries for 656 yards and five touchdowns. Can Arkansas put together a strong November and help provide a brighter future?
“Without a doubt,” Boyd said. “As we’ve got to do is keep our foot down and keep striving. We’re so close. We’re so close. Each game, we’ve just got to take it as it’s our last game. We’ve just got to bring it every time we step on the field, and it’s going to click.”
The schedule, minus the LSU game, is easier in November. But, with that said, there’s not a single team among Mississippi State, Western Kentucky and Missouri that couldn’t beat the Hogs just as easily or easier than Arkansas could top them. All three of them are better than San Jose State.
Junior linebacker Grant Morgan also talked about what it will take to turn the program back around.
“Coach (Chad) Morris said it’s kind of like an egg, it’s got to start from the inside-out,” Morgan said. “If you crack an egg from the outside, it’s dead. If you crack an egg from the inside, it’s the chick cracking itself. It’s got to start with us. It’s got to start with the players. It’s got to start with people believing. It’s got to start with just the little things.
“Like he says and everyone thinks it’s so redundant, but like you’ve got to be able to want to win, you’ve got to be able to want to be here, you’ve got to be able to want to be an Arkansas Razorback. And I think that the more and more people that want to be here and want to fight for us, I think that’s gonna be the way to get it around.”
Do you feel that message is getting through?
“Yeah, I definitely do,” Morgan said. “He says it all the time. I really do think Coach Morris will take 40 people this weekend if that’s the only people that want to win. If that’s the only people that believe in Arkansas, I really do think. He’ll take whoever wants to win.
“And I think our whole team has really bought into it. I think our team is like, from my viewpoint, we have a team that really wants to be here and we really want to play. We’ve gotten better. We really have.”
Senior linebacker De’Jon Harris leads the Razorbacks with 54 tackles, including three for loss, and has to fumble recoveries. On Tuesday night, he gave his opinion on what it will take to get the program turned around.
“Trusting the process,” Harris said. “I mean, obviously, we’ve got a lot of young guys who are playing. They’re building on experience on the run. Like I said, in the past I’ve been in their shoes and I know how it feels.
“You’re not going to turn it around overnight. It takes some time, it’s a process. I feel like as a freshman, though, you’ve got to put in more than what the coaches give you, so that’s basically what I’m trying to get these young guys to understand. It’s not just getting the game plan and looking at it here. You have to go above and beyond to be a great player.”
Sophomore cornerback Montaric Brown has had a pretty good season. Brown talked about finishing out this season strong to provide some momentum for next season.
“We’re always trying to take care of business,” Brown said. “We ain’t going to just lay down. We’re going to give each game our all and prepare well each and every week.
What will it take to turn this program around?
“It’s going to take everybody to buy in,” Brown said. “We’re always preparing to be great. We’re not listening to the outside media – I mean outside noise. We’re just preparing well each and every day.”
Think you can get Arkansas turned around one day?
“Yes, sir,” Brown said. “Yes, sir. That’s the mission.”
Junior center Ty Clary was asked how Morris is motivating the team through another tough season?
“He talks a lot about inner strength and shows us some videos every once in awhile,” Clary said. “He really wants it to come from us. Still be motivated. Still be a band of brothers, all work together. And you know that’s what the team’s mindset is right now. Keep your head down. Keep going. Grind.”
Can Arkansas get back to the level it once was?
“Absolutely, I mean, I’m from Fayetteville,” Clary said. “I believe in this team through and through. I love it here. Born and raised a Fayetteville kid. I have belief in this team all the way. That’s where I want to take this team, that’s where I want to go.”
Arkansas will return to the practice fields today at 4:30 p.m. The Hogs and Alabama will kickoff at 6 p.m. on Saturday night in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.