Finally healthy, Knox hopes to be more explosive in 2020
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FAYETTEVILLE — There weren’t many offensive highlights in Arkansas’ most recent scrimmage, but Trey Knox did manage to make a big play on a day dominated by defense.
Near the end of Friday’s practice, the sophomore hauled in a pass from Feleipe Franks on a corner route that gained about 40 yards.
Head coach Sam Pittman said Knox might have been able to score, but the play came during a four-minute situation in which the Razorbacks’ offense needed to get one more first down to run out the clock and seal a victory. Understanding the situation, Knox hit the ground instead of trying to get into the end zone.
“I just got down, tried to ice the game,” Knox said. “We just needed a first down to win and I just made a play. It was a great ball Feleipe threw and the O-line protected it perfectly and we just made a play.”
It might seem like a small detail, but it was far from insignificant. Pittman said the receivers had struggled with situational awareness in the first scrimmage, so it was a focus throughout the week of practice.
To see that coaching actually translate to the field was an encouraging sign for the first-year coach.
“I thought that was a very smart play by him,” Pittman said. “You can talk about things, but it's the action that happens in those 2-3-4-5 seconds that matters. He did a nice job with that.”
The Razorbacks hope to see more plays like that from Knox in 2020. They got a glimpse of it early last season, when he caught 21 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns in the first four games.
However, a hip injury suffered in Week 2 against Ole Miss eventually caused him to miss the Texas A&M game and he wasn’t the same after returning to action. Knox caught just seven passes for 86 yards and one score over the final seven games.
Speaking to the media on a Zoom videoconference after Friday’s scrimmage, Knox admitted he wasn’t healthy all season because he kept getting hit on his hip. It wasn’t until January when he felt he had finally recovered.
“Last year, I was dealing with that hip injury nagging the whole season,” Knox said. “Now that that's finally good I'm able to explode more, cut more, cut better and just overall take my game to the next level.”
Back to full health, Knox has his sights set on a 1,000-yard season. If he’s going to come anywhere close to reaching that milestone, he’ll have to be more effective with the ball in his hands.
According to Pro Football Focus, Knox averaged just 3.4 yards after the catch last season, with most of his YAC coming before he missed the Texas A&M game.
“Now getting that back right 100 percent helps me to move and make those cuts and make those plays after the catch, instead of just trying to run straight and hurting,” Knox said. “I have focused on it over the offseason with sand pit drills and cone drills, just trying to move and get better moving laterally.”
Through 11 of 25 preseason practices, Knox’s offseason work is already evident to his teammates. Safety Jalen Catalon said he’s doing a better job of understanding just how explosive he can be.
In fact, picking up yards after the catch is where Catalon has seen the most improvement from Knox since last season.
“I don’t think you can say he’s a possession receiver any more,” Catalon said. “I feel like he can do stuff after the catch, too, and I think that’s the most underrated part of his game.”
At 6-foot-5, 207 pounds, offensive coordinator Kendal Briles would also like to see Knox use his length to his advantage by beating people at the line of scrimmage, which would also help him become more explosive.
So far, the sophomore receiver has done everything asked of him and Briles commended him for being really consistent in practice.
“I really feel comfortable where he’s at,” Briles said. “He catches the ball really well. I’d say he’s probably one of the smartest players on the field. He’s really intelligent and that helps when you’re playing with tempo.”