Blake Kern announces decision to play for Arkansas Razorbacks in 2021
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Kern announces decision to play in 2021

Blake Kern emerged as a starting tight end for the Razorbacks in 2020.
Blake Kern emerged as a starting tight end for the Razorbacks in 2020. (Arkansas Athletics)

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Yet another senior is returning to Arkansas for an extra season.

Tight end Blake Kern announced his decision to play for the Razorbacks in 2021 via a tweet by tight ends coach Jon Cooper on Monday afternoon.

He is the fifth senior to make such an announcement, following linebacker Grant Morgan, offensive linemen Myron Cunningham and Ty Clary, and wide receiver De’Vion Warren.

As a standout player in the small Arkansas town of Lamar, Kern decided to pursue his dream of playing for the Razorbacks as a walk-on rather than take a scholarship at smaller schools.

He didn’t do much his first three years in Fayetteville, playing just 10 offensive snaps and 49 special teams snaps as a redshirt sophomore in 2018. However, Kern saw his role expand the following year.

Now on scholarship, he was praised by former tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. for being the best blocking tight end on the team last season. That resulted in him playing 66 offensive snaps - and 150 special teams snaps - in 2019.

Entering this season, though, Kern had still yet to be targeted with a pass. With a severe lack of depth at the position, that quickly changed, as he ended up starting five of 10 games and played more than twice as many snaps as Hudson Henry.

He made his first career reception in the opener against Georgia and ended the regular season with 20 catches for 201 yards. That total includes touchdowns against Tennessee and Missouri.

Kern’s return to the Razorbacks in 2021 will provide some much needed depth at a position that is pretty young and thin.

Henry was a redshirt freshman this season, while the only other true scholarship tight end on the roster was true freshman Collin Sutherland. Walk-on Nathan Bax, a redshirt freshman, had a significant special teams role, but played only two offensive snaps.

A trio of true freshmen - offensive lineman Marcus Henderson, defensive end Blayne Toll and defensive end Eric Thomas Jr. - each had stints at tight end, but have since moved back to their more natural positions.

The only tight end in Arkansas’ 2021 signing class is Erin Outley from Little Rock Parkview.

Although he was a fifth-year senior this season, Kern is able to return to school for a sixth season because of a rule change by the NCAA. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, all football players have been granted an extra year of eligibility, regardless of how much they played this season.