FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The first time Arkansas coach Chad Morris sat down to speak with John Scott Jr. he was given a refreshing dose of honesty about the state of the program he’d taken over.
Scott spent last season as defensive line coach on Bret Bielema’s staff. He laid out to Morris everything he felt was right and wrong with the Arkansas defense. Morris came away from that meeting knowing Scott was an assistant that would ideally be retained.
“John came in and was very open and just said, ‘Coach, here’s the deficiencies defensively, here’s some very quality people off field that you need to at least look at them,’ ” Morris said. “He was very open and I thought that was unique.”
That meeting occurred in mid-December and Scott was officially announced as a returning staff member in early January. Morris indicated he ultimately gave defensive coordinator John Chavis the final say in keeping Scott.
“It’s been clear to me from the first day that we talked that [Morris] has a vision and I think I understand it pretty well,” Chavis said. “And John Scott fits that vision.”
Scott will work primarily with defensive tackles as the Hogs shift from a base 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. Steve Caldwell, who coached Arkansas’ defensive line from 2010-12, returns from Boise State and will primarily coach defensive ends.
In addition to Scott, Morris has retained tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. from the previous staff. Lunney served in that role all five seasons of the Bielema era.
Morris believes keeping both coaches will help Arkansas get back on track sooner rather than later. With them being on opposite sides of the ball, they can give proper assessments of what works and what doesn’t with certain players based on experience.
“It really kind of helps when you assess and break down the talent that’s here returning and then trying to merge the new staff in,” Morris said. “I think it helps kind of bridge some of the gaps quicker. I mean, we’re going to get the relationships. That’s just what we do. But I think it helps kind of pull it together a little quicker.”
While familiarity is an added bonus of keeping Scott and Lunney, it wasn’t the overriding factor in keeping both.
“Do they fit? That’s the biggest question I had before we hired them both,” Morris said. “Do they fit what we want and who we are as people? And those boxes were checked.”