Re­turn­ing re­ceivers get ear­ful on Day 1

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE -

FAYET­TEVILLE — In col­lege foot­ball, they call it de-re­cruit­ing.

De-re­cruit­ing cus­tom­ar­ily oc­curs when coaches in pre­sea­son drills de­flate the head-swelling hot air pumped into fresh­men that helped these same coaches per­suade the re­cruits to sign on the dot­ted line.

But de-re­cruit­ing can hap­pen to any ath­lete at any ca­reer stage.

The Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville’s up­per­class­men re­ceivers learned that Thurs­day. Dur­ing Thurs­day’s prac­tice in hel­mets and no pads, the Ra­zor­backs rookie re­ceivers got pats on the back while the vet­eran wide­outs ab­sorbed a ver­bal kick in the pants.

The pro­duc­tiv­ity of re­turn­ing Ra­zor­backs se­nior Jared Cor­nelius and 2016 se­nior re­ceivers Drew Mor­gan, Keon Hatcher, Do­minique Reed and Cody Hol­lis­ter left the younger wide re­ceivers mostly on the bench. The com­bined three catches Deon Ste­wart and La’Michael Pettway snared marked the only 2016 catches by an Arkansas wide­out not in that group of five.

Cor­nelius missed time in the spring with a pulled ham­string, and now he is lim­ited be­cause of a sore back.

Coach Bret Bielema and his as­sis­tants went out of their way in spring to praise Ste­wart, Pettway, T.J. Ham­monds — the sopho­more who moved from run­ning back — ju­nior col­lege trans­fers Bran­don Martin and Jonathan Nance, and red­shirt fresh­man Jor­dan Jones.

No doubt some of the praise was earned, but it didn’t take Dr. Phil to note psy­chol­ogy at work to in­still con­fi­dence in the un­proven pass catch­ers.

Now is a dif­fer­ent time at a dif­fer­ent stage. Thurs­day’s first pre­sea­son prac­tice leads into the Ra­zor­backs’ Aug. 31 sea­son-opener against Flor­ida A&M in Lit­tle Rock.

Adding a fresh batch of re­ceivers — in­clud­ing fresh­men Jar­rod Barnes of Cabot; Maleek Barkley of Austin, Texas; Koilan Jack­son of Joe T. Robin­son; and De’Vion War­ren of Mon­roe, La., to go along with Fordyce’s Gary Cross, a trans­fer via Hutchin­son (Kan.) Com­mu­nity Col­lege — Bielema sent a post-prac­tice mes­sage that no re­ceiver other than Cor­nelius has earned any­thing.

“I tell you what I mean,” Bielema said. “Some of these older re­ceivers that haven’t got­ten on the field yet, they had bet­ter wake up and smell the cof­fee. Be­cause if they don’t per­form right, those younger guys will go right by them. It doesn’t take me long to fig­ure out you’ve been here three years and you can’t get it right, and you’ve got a guy who has been here three months and gets it right. We’ll make a move in a hurry.”

Bielema praised Barnes, Cross, Jack­son and War­ren. All show­case prom­ise.

But by Tues­day and Wed­nes­day when pads have been donned and their sore fresh­man legs are weary af­ter vet­eran de­fen­sive backs whack and ha­rass them, look for the rookie re­ceivers to get an ear­ful.

In col­lege foot­ball, most every­one gets de-re­cruited even­tu­ally.

It’s the game coaches play to get their best ready to play the game.

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