QB recruit Chandler Morris' decision: Dad and Arkansas or Dabo and Clemson?

Chandler Morris grew up next door to Dabo Swinney, and now has scholarship offers from Clemson as well as his dad's Arkansas Razorbacks. Cal Sport Media via AP Images

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and Arkansas coach Chad Morris were once so close -- neighbors, actually -- that Swinney would drive Morris' son, Chandler, to middle school in the mornings. During the four seasons Morris worked as Swinney's offensive coordinator, their families would go to Carowinds, an amusement park in Charlotte, North Carolina, to celebrate Swinney's son Clay's birthday. The coaches, who both had boats at their lake houses, would also take turns bringing their kids tubing in the summer.

Now they're taking turns recruiting Chandler as a future dual-threat quarterback -- and Swinney went first.

Last summer, Swinney called Morris at Arkansas to let him know he had extended a scholarship offer to Chandler, who spent fourth through seventh grades hanging around the likes of Tajh Boyd and Deshaun Watson.

"'Hey, I don't know what y'all are waitin' on,'" Swinney had joked, according to Arkansas offensive coordinator Joe Craddock. "'We went ahead and pulled the trigger to put some pressure on them Hogs.'"

Arkansas might sign just one quarterback in this year's class, and it could be the head coach's son -- but Chad Morris wants nothing to do with recruiting him.

"I said, 'Look, I'm going to be the dad, not the recruiting coach,'" he said. "It's been very unique because you get to see the other side of the table."

Unique, yes, but certainly not unheard of.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's son, Gunnar, is a quarterback recruit in the 2020 class. Houston coach Dana Holgorsen's son, Logan, flipped his commitment from North Texas to Bowling Green before eventually joining his father at Houston. What separates Chandler Morris' recruiting process from most is the bonds that were formed long before the recruiting process, and the family ties that extend beyond his own.

At Clemson, Will and Drew Swinney both play for their dad. Linebacker Jake Venables plays for his father, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, and safety Tyler Venables committed to Clemson just this week.

"That [Clemson] atmosphere is a family-feel atmosphere, and it hasn't changed since the day I walked in the door there on my interview," Chad Morris said. "That night we ended my interview watching Clay play little league basketball as like a kindergartner, and that feel has never changed [or] left that building.

"When you see Will and Drew [Swinney] and Jake [Venables], you see those guys playing there, that's what they've been, and that's exactly the blueprint we have here at Arkansas," Morris said. "We're in the early stages as they were in the early stages when they first got there."

To say that Arkansas already has some family tradition might be an understatement.

Current Arkansas quarterback John Stephen Jones is the grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a co-captain on Arkansas' 1964 national title team. His father, Stephen Jones, also played for the Razorbacks, and is the Cowboys' vice president. John Stephen Jones also went to the same high school as Chandler Morris, where he led Dallas' Highland Park to two state titles.

When Morris was hired from SMU to Arkansas, his wife, Paula, stayed behind in Texas with Chandler so he could finish his high school career at Highland Park, a state powerhouse.

Those familiar with his recruiting process said he has also received offers from Oklahoma, Auburn and his dad's alma mater, Texas A&M.

Highland Park coach Randy Allen said he has never spoken to Chad Morris about recruiting Chandler.

"I treat Chandler just like our other players who have Division I talent," he said. "He wanted to go through the recruiting process just like any athlete. I don't know what he's going to do. I know the team that's here the most is Arkansas to recruit him. Their quarterback coach, Joe Craddock, is at a lot of our practices, and a lot of our spring he was here. They are recruiting him very hard.

"It's been a busy spring as far as coaches coming in and wanting to talk to him."

Not long after receiving the offer from Clemson, Chandler visited Arkansas' summer camp last year. About a week later, Craddock called his boss and Paula into the quarterbacks meeting room to officially extend an offer to Chandler.

"It was a little bit added pressure to recruit the head coach's son," said Craddock, who has known Chandler for about eight years because he was hired by Swinney at Clemson first as an offensive player-development coach then as a graduate assistant. "I knew that I had a good relationship with Chandler for quite some time. We talked a lot of ball throughout the years. I always felt like Chandler respected me as a coach.

His dad, though, is the one who has the game plan when it comes to dealing with other schools recruiting Chandler. Morris said he has rearranged his schedule so he was able to take Chandler on several unofficial visits, which is an entirely different experience for a head coach as opposed to any other dad.

"You go in and you sit down and you get straight to the chase," Morris said. "A lot of it is roster talk more than anything. You talk about injuries and how they handle kids that get hurt, and how does that work. You deal with their trainers. It's more, from my standpoint, how they go about the strength and conditioning, how they specialize in their quarterbacks and looking at the overall development of the coach. Is he an offensive-minded coach? Is he a defensive-minded coach? You talk strategy, you talk scheme, you talk offense with him. I don't do a whole lot of talking. I do a lot of listening and let Chandler do a lot of the talking."

Morris said he missed only about four of Chandler's games last season, but that he talks to him more about leadership than technique.

"When he comes home, we'll talk, and he'll usually ask me and he wants to know, 'What did you think, Dad?'" Morris said. "When he asks, I'll say, 'Hey, look, you missed this throw here, but what did you see here? Why did you do that? You made some really good decisions right here.'

"But then I usually end it, 'Chandler, the most important thing I see, is, man, when that defense made a stop, you were the first one out there high-fiving those guys,'" Morris continued. "Those are the little things you can't coach. I try to focus more on that ... body language on the sidelines, being around when maybe a receiver drops a ball, or things don't go good. I'm more apt to get on him at that time then I am about any decision he makes on the field."

Or one of the biggest decisions he'll make off of it.

"As long as Chandler's happy, I'm happy and Paula will be happy," Morris said. "That's really it. I will be happy regardless. From a dad and a coach, I think playing for your dad, there are a lot of positives and a lot of negatives that can come with it. But I think if you step back from it all in the end, I want it to be his decision."

In the battle of Dad vs. Dabo, some might call either decision a win-win.

"I've been at Clemson," Craddock said. "They've got great people, great facilities. They're great coaches and great people, so I know they would take care of him. That's something that, as a dad, Coach Morris would have to talk with him about. If it was me, with a team that just played for the national championship and won it, it would be hard not to commit on the spot. But Chandler's done it the right way. He's handled it the right way, taken his trips and enjoyed the process."