UA tight ends deep, led by Cantrell

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - NATE ALLEN

FAYET­TEVILLE — Ev­ery day teach­ers si­mul­ta­ne­ously chal­lenge their most gifted stu­dents while striv­ing to bring the rest of the class closer to that apex and nur­ture the rest’s uniquely in­di­vid­ual tal­ents.

The same chal­lenges be­set coaches, too. Ex­tremely for Bret Bielema and his Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville foot­ball staff, it seems.

Prior to Mon­day’s North­west Arkansas Ra­zor­back Club’s golf out­ing in Rogers, Bielema dis­cussed en­ter­ing Thurs­day’s start of pre­sea­son drills know­ing the zeniths that some of his starters start above the “covey” of back­ups.

Of­fen­sively, se­nior pre­sea­son All-SEC first-team cen­ter Frank Rag­now, se­nior pre­sea­son thirdteam All-SEC quar­ter­back Austin Allen, se­nior wide re­ceiver Jared Cor­nelius, with 32 of the re­turn­ing wide re­ceivers’ 35 to­tal re­cep­tions for 2016, sopho­more run­ning back Devwah Wha­ley, el­e­vated from sup­port­ing role co- star to the star with the sec­ond ma­jor neck in­jury com­pelling run­ning back Rawleigh Williams’ foot­ball re­tire­ment, stand well above those crowd­ing be­low them, Bielema said.

At tight end, Bielema said he be­lieves third-year sopho­more Austin Cantrell does, too.

“I think at tight end you have Austin Cantrell, who’s kind of up here,” Bielema said. “And then there’s just a covey of tight ends that are all try­ing to jockey for that spot.”

Cantrell, 6- 3, 264 of Roland, Okla., backed up 2016 Ra­zor­backs se­nior/2017 Wash­ing­ton Redskins draftee Jeremy Sprin­kle last year but carved his own niche as a blocker (“I think he might be the best block­ing tight end in the coun­try,” Arkansas of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dan Enos said last spring) while catch­ing 13 passes for 120 yards and two touch­downs.

Though called above the tight end crowd, Cantrell won’t have to go it alone.

Be­tween the mul­ti­ple tight end sets in­clud­ing H-back plus all the spe­cial teams du­ties ex­pected from a po­si­tion de­mand­ing the com­bi­na­tion of re­ceiver skills and speed and line­man’s strength, the tight end is the most uti­lized po­si­tion in Bielema’s of­fense.

So even with Cantrell start­ing above the crowd, op­por­tu­ni­ties can still knock for third-year sopho­mores Cheyenne (also known as C.J.) O’Grady and Will Gragg, true sopho­more Grayson Gunter, ju­nior Jack Kraus and na­tion­ally her­alded ju­nior col­lege trans­fer Jeremy Pat­ton.

Pat­ton was a late ar­rival to the Ra­zor­backs’ sum­mer work­outs. He had to com­plete his ju­nior col­lege aca­demics but ap­par­ently makes up for lost time.

“He’s been re­ally, re­ally en­gaged,” Bielema said. “Also C.J. O’Grady has prob­a­bly been as good as I’ve seen and Will Gragg. At tight end, too, Grayson Gunter, a guy who wasn’t there in the spring.”

Gunter has since re­cov­ered from shoul­der surgery.

All bear prom­ise but all have work to do, tight ends coach Barry Lun­ney Jr. said.

“We could sit here and go down the list of ev­ery one of them and talk about the things they can im­prove on,” Lun­ney said.

“But I think the first two or three weeks of camp will prove the guys we’re ready to go to bat­tle with. There will be a lot of reps, a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties for ev­ery one of them.”


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.