FAYETTEVILLE — Few sound more collectively foolish than a team that hasn’t done squat posturing up to media.
So credit the Arkansas Razorbacks coming off a 2-10 season for not playing the “We don’t get no respect” card going into their portion of last Wednesday’s SEC Football Media Days in Hoover, Alabama.
Senior defensive tackle McTelvin “Sosa” Agim refused to play that hand when offered.
Senior running back Devwah Whaley and senior linebacker De’Jon “Scoota” Harris followed suit.
Agim was asked if the media preseason prognosticators might be “sleeping” on these Razorbacks never awaking SEC victorious in last season’s 0-8 conference campaign.
“I wouldn’t say so much slept on,” Agim replied. “We went 2-10 last year. If you go 2-10, why would you expect us to be anything better? I can’t be upset. You make the bed and we’ve been laying in it and now it’s time for us to get out of it.”
Whaley concurred with Agim that the Hogs vow to improve but can’t gripe because it isn’t generally media forecast.
“He’s right,” Whaley said. “We lost a lot of close games, a lot of hard rough games. We have to put it behind us.”
Harris was asked the ceaselessly cliche “Do you have a chip on your shoulder?,” question.
“I feel like there’s always going to be a chip, especially coming off a 2-10 season,” Harris said. “We were way more talented than our record shows. Like I said, we are just going to keep our heads down and grind right now. When it is time for the season to come, we are going to show everybody how much better we have gotten in year two from year one.”
Harris calls his major motivation “just getting this program back and actually winning a bowl game this year.”
Losing seasons kept Arkansas home since Harris as a 2016 freshman played in the Belk Bowl under former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema.
Closing 2016 losing a 24-7 halftime lead into a 28-24 loss at Missouri and blowing a 24-0 halftime lead into a 38-24 Belk Bowl loss to Virginia Tech in Charlotte, North Carolina, stripped the wheels from Bielema’s 7-6 Razorbacks that so easily could have finished 9-4.
The wheels never came back on.
Bielema was offed after a 4-8, 2017 including 1-7 in the SEC.
Arkansas coach Chad Morris, inheriting in 2015 a 1-11 2014 mess at SMU, and after a 2-10 2015 improving the Mustangs to 5-7 and 7-5 and Frisco Bowl bound before taking the Arkansas job in December 2107, knows the price Arkansas paid last year.
He says he knows the resolve of those returned on a young team he says has 52 freshmen composed of scholarship true freshmen, scholarship redshirt freshmen and walk-ons both new and redshirted, and 28 sophomores.
“A true measure of a staff and a group of young men that chose to come back, when things go bad, is their character is and how they respond,” Morris said. “Last season was hard. But we learned a lot as a staff and we learned a lot as players, and we responded. And as head football coach, that's what you ask.”
How did they respond?
“Our staff responded by putting together one of the top recruiting classes in the history our school,” Morris said. “Our players have responded by continuing to be developed by our staff and our strength staff and (strength coach) Trumain Carroll, and establishing our culture and what we stand for and core values when our coaches are out of the office.”
Agim, Harris and Whaley all talked about the 2019 Razorbacks’ “buy-in” to what Morris and his staff impart that they said last year’s team didn’t buy as a whole.
“I feel as seniors we are going to hold the team accountable,” Harris said. “That’s the difference in last year. There was no accountability on the team. Everybody understands their role now and we bought into what coach Morris and what coach Tru emphasized in our offseason. We are ready to put together the pieces now.”
Whaley said none want to repeat last year’s path.
“With the group of seniors we have including myself, we have to be more player led,” Whaley said. “That’s something we bought into. Coach Morris has a great plan. We just have to continue to execute it and work hard and the only way is up.”