Gaps left to fill for Razorbacks receivers
FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas Razorbacks have so many auditioning to replace four 2016 graduates in the receivers rotation that even their head coach and quarterback couldn’t include them all by consensus.
Bret Bielema, the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, head coach, and fifth-year senior quarterback Austin Allen of Fayetteville separately were asked about the wide receivers during the Razorbacks’ Monday session of SEC football media days in Hoover, Ala.
The 2016 Razorbacks graduated a combined 135 catches, 1,877 yards and 13 touchdowns among wideouts Drew Morgan, Keon Hatcher, Dominique Reed and Cody Hollister.
Returning Razorbacks receivers combined for 35 catches in 2016.
Jared Cornelius caught 32.
No wonder that without the other present to fill in the blanks that Bielema and Allen, beyond Cornelius, didn’t always intersect on likely answers to the Razorbacks’ receivers questions.
“At wide receiver,” Bielema said, “we signed two junior players [ Brandon Martin and Jonathan Nance] that I feel really have adopted the game well and have made a nice impact as well as a couple of younger players in our program, Deon Stewart and LaMichael Pettway, that I think can step up in a role that’s pretty significant.”
Pettway, a sophomore from Nashville, had a 10-yard touchdown catch during the 2016 rout over Alcorn State, and Stewart, a sophomore from Hardy, had two catches for 34 yards, caught the only 2016 passes among the returning receivers that Cornelius didn’t.
Asked whom he expected to throw to besides Cornelius, Allen mentioned transfers Martin and Nance, who were teammates last season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Pettway and Jordan Jones, the speedy redshirt freshman from Smackover.
Now remember, this was media day rapid-fire on-TV questions without pause to reflect.
Last spring, Bielema and Allen touted them all and also cited T.J. Hammonds, who moved from running back last spring.
At receiver, the Hogs may seem to be relying on Pigs in a poke but they are gifted Pigs that will poke through defenses, Allen asserts.
“There’s a lot of young talent on the team,” Allen said. “This time next year, you guys will be saying, ‘The guy who will be quarterback has a snack bar full of receivers.’ I think those young guys are ready to come out and make a difference.”
Especially Allen said, with senior Cornelius “leading” them this year.
Bielema concurs citing Cornelius’ triple threat as a receiver, rusher on reverses and punt returner.
“We did a postseason study that showed he was one of the most productive slot receivers in all of college football last year,” Bielema said.
MEL CRANSTON REMEMBERED
Those close to the Oaklawn scene in the 1990s will be saddened to learn that Mel Cranston, owner of Cranston Stables, died Sunday days after a motorcycle accident.
Known throughout Fayetteville as the former proprietor of the Tim’s Pizza restaurants, Mel had been out of racing for a while but never away from his care for horses. Between their retired thoroughbreds more than doubled by their rescue adoptions, Mel and his late wife Shirley had some 18 horses still on their farm.