Play­maker void of­fers op­por­tu­nity

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - TOM MUR­PHY

FAYET­TEVILLE — When Austin Allen drops back to pass th­ese days, he sees new hands ev­ery­where.

With se­nior re­ceiver Jared Cor­nelius tak­ing some time off in train­ing camp to rest his sore back, the Arkansas Ra­zor­backs have vir­tu­ally a whole new fleet of tar­gets in the pass­ing game.

Deon Ste­wart, the sopho­more veteran of the group in Cor­nelius’ ab­sence, had two catches last sea­son. Fel­low sopho­more La’Michael Pettway had one. Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dan Enos said sev­eral play­ers have cham­pi­oned the wideopen wide­out com­pe­ti­tion through three days of camp.

“Jor­dan Jones has had three days, I mean, I think he’s had four touch­down catches on deep balls,” Enos said. “He’s re­ally flashed and shown speed and run by guys.”

Enos said most of Jones’ big plays have come with the first unit on of­fense.

“That guy can play,” Allen said. “I’m a big fan of his, and I think he’s gonna make a name for him­self this year.”

Jones, Jonathan Nance and Ste­wart looked to be tak­ing the most reps with the starters dur­ing the early por­tion of Sat­ur­day’s first prac­tice in mod­i­fied pads. Allen said Jones, Nance, T.J. Ham­monds and Ste­wart have all scored dur­ing the first three prac­tices, and Enos added that sopho­more Bran­don Martin has made a big play.

Re­ceivers coach Michael Smith said early this week the re­ceivers might be his most tal­ented at Arkansas, so the com­pe­ti­tion for play­ing time is ex­pected to be fierce.

Enos pointed out hav­ing a se­nior quar­ter­back, a veteran of­fen­sive front, tight ends with ex­pe­ri­ence and a tail­back in Devwah Wha­ley with qual­ity play­ing time has helped es­tab­lish a quick pace for in­stal­la­tion.

So we’re try­ing to go fast with our in­stal­la­tion, and the wide re­ceivers are just a lit­tle bit be­hind,” he said. “But they’re not as be­hind as you would think. They’re do­ing a good job. I think Deon Ste­wart has re­ally stepped up and as­serted him­self here very early, and T.J. Ham­monds and Jor­dan Jones as well.”

Nance and fel­low ju­nior col­lege trans­fer Martin went through spring ball, but the pace of the work has in­creased.

“Jonathan Nance … and Bran­don, both of those guys con­tinue to come, too,” Enos

said. “I think we’re very tal­ented at that po­si­tion. They’ve got to catch up with what we’re do­ing, learn it.”

Enos pointed out that a longer camp should be a big ben­e­fit for those two, as well as the big crop of fresh­man wide­outs.

Arkansas’ search for of­fen­sive play­ers doesn’t stop at re­ceiver.

Af­ter los­ing 1,360-yard rusher Rawleigh Williams to a sec­ond neck in­jury on the fi­nal day of spring prac­tice, depth at tail­back has be­come a fo­cal point.

Wha­ley, who rushed for 602 yards and three touch­downs as a fresh­man, has en­tered into a lead role, but Bret Bielema-coached teams have han­dled three or more

con­tribut­ing tail­backs in the past.

David Williams, a grad­u­ate trans­fer from South Carolina, has es­tab­lished him­self quickly, Enos said.

“He’s been un­be­liev­able,” Enos said. “The guys like him. They re­spect him, and they like him. It’s hard to do that when he came in the sum­mer late.

“He’s earned the re­spect of guys very quickly by, I think, keep­ing his mouth shut and by lis­ten­ing and learn­ing, then by go­ing out on the field and show­ing those guys he knows what to do and he’s go­ing to play with great ef­fort.”

Cen­ter Frank Rag­now pointed out that Wha­ley has emerged as a leader

and that Williams has been vo­cal, too.

“David Williams is very good at com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the pass [pro­tec­tion],” Rag­now said. “I love that about him. And he’s been run­ning the ball hard, too.”

Enos added that fresh­men Maleek Williams and Chase Hay­den have been “re­ally good” so far and that Ham­monds has taken reps in the back­field like he did last year and is a nat­u­ral.

“T.J., we’ve been us­ing him in a lot of dif­fer­ent places and he’s re­ally some­thing with the ball in his hands,” Enos said. “We have a lot of re­ally, re­ally good young skill, and some of those guys will end up play­ing and help­ing us this year.”

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