Hogs up tempo in camp to develop WR depth
College Students, get a year of HawgBeat coverage for just $11.95. Request details via email from your school account (.edu) to email@example.com.
FAYETTEVILLE — Through two days of fall camp, one of the most noticeable changes under the new staff has been the pace of practice.
In addition to the receivers having wider splits, junior Mike Woods said the biggest difference is the tempo at which his position group has to go at all times.
Having already lost all of spring ball because of the coronavirus pandemic and four fall camp practices with the SEC’s tweaked schedule, Arkansas is “two-spotting” practice - meaning they are utilizing both practice fields to maximize the number of reps.
For the receivers, that means a lot of running and near constant movement.
“We want to make sure everybody’s getting reps, everybody’s getting on the field and able to prove themselves,” offensive coordinator Kendal Briles warned last week. “So those guys are gonna get worn out. They better find a cold tub quickly because they’re going to need it.”
Head coach Sam Pittman said he was pleased with how the receivers fought through getting “an unbelievable amount of reps” in the first practice Monday and Woods indicated after Wednesday’s practice that it continued in Day 2 of camp.
The Razorbacks have a clear top three at the position with Woods, Treylon Burks and Trey Knox and Briles said they’ve also emerged as leaders this offseason.
Those three guys combined for almost all of Arkansas’ wide receiver production last season, hauling in 90 passes for 1,283 yards and seven touchdowns.
Each of them have the potential to put up good numbers in 2020, but it seems like Burks is a budding superstar. He really impressed Pittman during workouts, walk-throughs and in Monday’s practice.
“He’s talented enough to be a (number) 1 receiver on several teams, in my opinion,” Pittman said. “We’ve got to find ways to get the ball to him, whether it’s throwing it to him, running him out of the backfield, throwing quick swings to him. He’s a big, fast receiver that we need to get touches to him.”
Not only will the Razorbacks use him in multiple ways on offense, but he’s also getting work as a kickoff and punt returner, where Pittman described him as “dynamic.”
It’s no secret that Arkansas will be creative in finding ways to get the ball in his hands, but at the end of the day, he’s a wide receiver. In fact, cornerback Montaric Brown said he’s the toughest receiver to cover on the team because of his sheer size at 6-foot-3, 232 pounds.
“I call him Julio Jones because he has a big frame,” Brown said. “He can do anything. He has speed, power, and he can just run by you. Even though he's like 230, he can run by you. He's got all the weapons. He's built like an NFL receiver, to me. He can do anything.”
Knox also showed why he was a four-star recruit and Rivals150 prospect coming out of high school with an impressive freshman season last year, while Woods has had two years of solid production.
With those guys leading the way, Briles said he believes it’s a strong group for the offense, but developing depth behind them is still important.
“I think our top level guys, our first 5-6 guys, can be really explosive,” Briles said. “Then we're going to have to keep developing some of these younger guys and get them where they need to be.”
Who that next group of receivers is remains to be seen, but Woods mentioned Kendall Catalon, De’Vion Warren and Tyson Morris and three guys who have looked really good to him so far.
He also acknowledged there were several other guys who could evolve into contributors because everyone was picking up the playbook and had a good understanding of the offense.
“We definitely have some depth that people don’t know about,” Woods said. “A lot of people want to talk about the top three, but I think we have some good depth and we’re going to need it.”
Most of the receivers have been at Arkansas for at least a year. The only 2020 signee at the position was Darin Turner, who Woods described as a deep threat because of his size (6-3, 208).
“He can go up and go get it and he'll go across the middle,” Woods said. “He's picking up the playbook real good. His technique is getting better every day. That's what we're just trying to work on with him, just get your technique right every day.”
How many receivers Briles uses in a game will depend on how the tight ends look, but he said he typically uses five. Some of those are in limited roles, though, with three usually taking the majority of the snaps.
It appears that the three who will get most of the snaps are already set, but Woods is pushing the entire group to fight for the remaining couple of spots. He said he texts his fellow receivers every day after getting in extra work before and after practice.
“We have to put in the extra work so when we go out there on the field on Saturdays, it’s like second nature,” Woods said. “We’re fine-tuning every day, all the little details.
“Whatever it is, one thing before practice and one thing after practice, just get better at it. I think as a group, we’re all executing and doing our technique and getting better every day and I think we’re really locked in.”