Arkansas, O'Grady 'mutually' part ways
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas and star tight end Cheyenne O’Grady have “mutually agreed” to part ways, head coach Chad Morris announced Monday.
The news comes just two days after the fifth-year senior was suspended for the Razorbacks’ 54-24 loss to Mississippi State because of unspecified reasons.
“First of all, we met last night and we want to wish C.J. the best,” Morris said. “We’re here to help him get to where he wants to get to as the next step. We want to wish him the best right now.”
Although no reason was given for the decision, unverified rumors have swirled with speculation.
Sources told HawgBeat before Saturday’s game that it was because O’Grady missed multiple meetings during the week, but an article on HitThatLine.com insinuated that it stemmed from a disagreement between the two about who should play quarterback moving forward.
What is known for sure is that O’Grady was arguably the Razorbacks’ best offensive weapon. Even with two fewer games than his teammates, he still leads the team in receptions (33) and receiving yards (372), and is tied with Mike Woods for the most touchdown catches with three.
As a junior, the Fayetteville native tied for the team lead with 30 catches, ranked second with 400 yards and a team-high six touchdowns - all in the final eight games of the year.
An 8-yard touchdown against Alabama last week gave O'Grady 12 career touchdowns, breaking the UA record for a tight end previously held by Jeremy Sprinkle. Incredibly, those 12 touchdowns were thrown by six different quarterbacks - Ty Storey (5), Cole Kelley (3), Austin Allen (1), Ben Hicks (1), Nick Starkel (1) and John Stephen Jones (1).
“We’re going to miss him a lot,” offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said. “He’s a tremendous talent. He’s made some plays for us over the last two years. I’ve got a great relationship with C.J. I love C.J., he’s a great kid and we wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
Considered one of the tight end prospects for next summer’s NFL Draft, this is not the first time O’Grady had dealt with off-field issues during his tenure with the Razorbacks.
Although the official explanation from the UA was that he didn’t play in the opener because he wasn’t fully healed from arthroscopic knee surgery during the second week of fall camp, head coach Chad Morris said “he’ll be ready to go Saturday” just a few days before the game and sources told HawgBeat that he missed the game because of a suspension.
O'Grady also missed the first quarter of the Colorado State win. The official word from Arkansas was that he was held out with strep throat, but he then played the rest of the game, catching three passes for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Last season, O’Grady was suspended for the first two games of the season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. A tweet by linebacker Dre Greenlaw - who also played with him at Fayetteville High - seemed to indicate it was due to him skipping workouts and class.
He also had discipline issues under previous head coach Bret Bielema. A four-star recruit and the No. 2 tight end in the Class of 2015, O’Grady was arrested on suspicion of DWI about a week before the season opener his freshman year.
After redshirting that season, O’Grady was in and out of Bielema’s doghouse the next two years. He appeared in only 19 of 25 games - with one start - while catching 24 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns.
In his absence Saturday, the Razorbacks leaned on Grayson Gunter, Chase Harrell and even true freshman Hudson Henry, who made his debut in the loss. The trio combined for three receptions and 27 yards against the Bulldogs, with each catching one pass.
Gunter is listed as the starting tight end on the depth chart for the Western Kentucky game, followed by Harrell and Henry.