Gragg fi­nally gets chance to shine

The Sentinel-Record - - SPORTS - OTIS KIRK

FAYET­TEVILLE — Will Gragg came to Arkansas with high ex­pec­ta­tions, and fans got to see a glimpse of his po­ten­tial on Satur­day.

A 4-star re­cruit out of Du­mas, Gragg caught three passes for 47 yards in­clud­ing a 33-yard screen play in the 33-10 loss to LSU. Gragg is the younger brother of for­mer tight end Chris Gragg.

“It was great,” Gragg said of his ex­tended play­ing time Satur­day. “It was re­ally my first time get­ting my feet wet be­ing able to make plays in a game that mat­tered. It made it fun again.”

With more plays in­volv­ing him in prac­tice last week, Gragg ex­pected to see more time against LSU.

“Just dur­ing the course of the week I worked in more with the ones and they call­ing plays that had my num­ber on them,” he said. “So I had kinda had a feel­ing I was gonna get a chance to make some­thing hap­pen. Ya’ll know we’ve been run­ning the screen play for­ever and get­ting big plays. The coaches told me that I was gonna get my chance to do it with us be­ing a cou­ple of tight ends down. He told me at half­time to get ready for it, and we ran it and it got ex­e­cuted.”

Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dan Enos had praise for Gragg. “Will did a good job,” Enos said. “He was im­pres­sive. He had a very nice run on that screen. Caught a ball on third down. He did a good job. Will is a guy who has earned him­self more op­por­tu­nity with how he has played. We al­ways tell guys as a coach, ‘You are gonna get op­por­tu­ni­ties and what you do with those op­por­tu­ni­ties will de­ter­mine how much more of an op­por­tu­nity you’re gonna get.’ Cer­tainly Will, the way he played this past week, has earned him­self more op­por­tu­ni­ties. He will get a bunch of reps this week, and I would ex­pect to see him play quite a bit of snaps on Satur­day.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate Will Gragg and how he has han­dled him­self the past year,” Enos said. “He has come to work ev­ery day and had a se­ri­ous mind­set to him. He’s fo­cused at meet­ings, fo­cused at prac­tice and when you get the op­por­tu­nity to suc­ceed and I think he’s re­ally start­ing to earn the trust of his coaches and team­mates. I think we will cer­tainly see his role in­crease this week.”

Barry Lun­ney Jr. coaches the tight ends and also echoed some of what Enos said.

“His at­tutude’s been good,” Lun­ney said. “He’s done a good job of stay­ing en­gaged and tak­ing ad­van­tage of his game op­por­tu­ni­ties. So that’s been a pos­i­tive thing. Some guys just do a lit­tle bit bet­ter in game-time sit­u­a­tions. He’s ob­vi­ously — not to min­i­mize what he’s done — he’s far from per­fect in that re­gard. He’s done some nice things in par­tic­u­lar in the pass­ing game.

“The screen play, it wasn’t ex­e­cuted overly per­fectly, but the run af­ter the catch, you can’t ar­gue with that. It was very well done. Made a third-down con­ver­sion on a route and did the same thing a few weeks ear­lier against Alabama late. so he’s done a nice job of tak­ing ad­van­tage of his op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Gragg noted that while not start­ing as a fresh­man, all play­ers have their own time­line.

“Everybody’s time­line is dif­fer­ent,” Gragg said. “Hunter Henry came in here and started as a fresh­man. Jeremy Sprin­kle didn’t make a play un­til his red­shirt sopho­more year. Everybody’s time­line is dif­fer­ent. Just when­ever your num­ber gets called coach told us you can’t de­ter­mine when you get into the game, but how you play once you do get in the game. So just make the most of your op­por­tu­ni­ties. It took my brother three years for him to get his feet wet. So we’re kinda used to it and just keep work­ing.”

With Gragg’s older brother re­hab­bing in Fayet­teville in prepa­ra­tion for the 2018 NFL sea­son, Will has plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for some ex­tra coach­ing at home.

“With him be­ing down this year he has got­ten more in­volved in the game,” Will said with a wide smile. “With him be­ing at home he is watch­ing film and telling me things I need to do. He’s watch­ing ev­ery play of the game on Satur­day. On Sun­day when we get by our­selves he can tell me what I did wrong and things like that. He has been a huge help. I’m for­ever in­debted to him.”

The broth­ers also spend plenty of time to­gether. “Prob­a­bly when­ever I leave from here I’m go­ing straight to his house un­til I go to bed,” Gragg said. “That’s my best friend. He cooks some­times for us and we watch films and movies be­ing a big brother to me giv­ing me tips on things I need to know. It’s just good hav­ing some­one at home to go to who has been where you are and has been to where you want to go and knows how to get there.”

Gragg knows he has waited for his turn and now he’s also aware of what he has to do to con­tinue to get reps.

“Just keep work­ing,” Gragg said. “Come in Mon­day, Tues­day, Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day and Fri­day and do what I can to get pre­pared, get ready and watch film. Get all the things I need to do.”

The Ra­zor­backs and Gragg will get a real test on Satur­day when No. 17 Mis­sis­sippi State comes to Reynolds Ra­zor­back Sta­dium for an 11 a.m. kick­off tele­vised on CBS.

Gragg knows that the key to win­ning Satur­day is in the ground game.

“We’ve got to estab­lish the run game against any de­fense,” Gragg said. “But their de­fense is one of the best in the coun­try. I think they’re a Top 10 de­fense. They played well against Alabama. They held the No. 1 team in the coun­try. We’ve just got to estab­lish the run game and ev­ery­thing else will build off that.”

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