TU's Chad Morris finds his style via friend Gus Malzahn
BY MIKE STRAIN World Sports Editor
Sunday, August 15, 2010
8/15/10 at 7:34 AM
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CHAD MORRIS NEEDED help. He thought his job depended on it.
"I was humbled. I was hurting," said Morris, the University of Tulsa's new offensive coordinator. "I was about ready to get out of the profession."
That was 2003. Morris was head coach at Stephenville (Texas) High School. Art Briles won four state championships at Stephenville but had moved on to the University of Houston. Then it was Morris' turn.
And despite the fact that Morris had won his own state championship, Stephenville fans had plenty of advice for the new guy on how Art had done things. Especially when Morris' first team went 6-4 and missed the playoffs.
"I wasn't invited to many community parties," Morris said as he told his story to a room full of high school coaches during last month's Oklahoma Coaches Convention at the Southern Hills Marriott.
Morris knew another bad year would cost him his job. He had tried to do things like Briles. It hadn't worked. So, out of desperation, he did some searching and heard about a whiz high school coach in Arkansas. Morris took a chance and brought his whole staff to see Gus Malzahn.
A friendship was born; and now in a coaching circle-of-life kind of moment at TU, Morris has followed Malzahn calling plays for the Golden Hurricane.
When they first met during Arkansas' playoffs in fall of '03, Morris recalls, Malzahn was a bit "reserved." So to show he was serious, Morris took his staff up to Arkansas the next week to watch another playoff game. Malzahn was sold.
Morris is "extremely sharp," said Malzahn, whose offense keeps humming, only now at Auburn. "We shared ideas both ways. I got ideas from him, too. We just kind of kept that relationship."
TU coaches and fans hope Morris provides a spark. A Hurricane program that led the nation in total offense in 2007 and '08 (Malzahn's two years) dipped to 35th last year.
If Morris' high school record - and his connections to Malzahn - are any indication, there could be improvement this fall.
Morris left Arkansas impressed. No one in Texas was running a fast-paced offense like that. He decided to use Malzahn's philosophy, but Morris would incorporate his own ideas. "If I was gonna go down, I was gonna go down doing it my way," he said.
He didn't go down. Morris' teams went 75-6 in his next six seasons. His final two years of that run - at Lake Travis in the Austin area - his teams went 32-0. Lake Travis won the 2008 and 2009 state titles. The '08 championship came with quarterback Garrett Gilbert, the starter at Texas this season.
Morris and his family were "miserable" after that first year in Stephenville, and he's grateful to Malzahn. But ask if the TU offense is going to look like Malzahn's, and Morris won't fall into that trap. He once tried to follow an Art. Morris doesn't want to follow a Gus.
"I can't come in and call plays like Gus," Morris said.
And Malzahn wouldn't want that. When he made the transition from high school to college, Malzahn received some advice. He has the same for Morris.
"Do what you know best," Malzahn said. "That was very good advice. And it's the same thing for him. He knows what he does, and he does it great. And he will do the same thing in college."
When Malzahn talks about Morris, it's not just football. He talks about a coach who genuinely cares about players.
"As a person, it doesn't get any better than him," Malzahn said. "He's a great example for kids."
Morris has been through spring practices and has a few August workouts under his belt. He's a college coach for the first time. But if there's any uncertainty like that rocky first year in Stephenville, he isn't showing it.
"You've gotta be yourself," said Morris, a man who was willing to ask for help and found a person willing to give it. "Gus and I have had an unbelievable relationship. I'm very thankful to him."
Original Print Headline: TU coordinator finds his style via friend Malzahn
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Chad Morris addresses reporters during the University of Tulsa's football media day. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World