Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Arkansas Razorbacks recruiting notebook. In this edition, we discuss the recruitment of tight ends.
Arkansas OC expects to get top tight ends
In the immediate aftermath in Arkansas’ shift from Bret Bielema to Chad Morris, it was believed tight ends would be taking on a significantly decreased role in the Hogs’ offense. It had been Bielema’s favorite position while Morris had hardly used tight ends — at least in the passing game — during his three seasons at SMU.
That theory couldn’t have been more inaccurate based on Arkansas’ offense this spring. According to offensive coordinator Joe Craddock, tight ends accounted for more receiving touchdowns than wide receivers or running backs during the 15 spring practices. Two of those were caught by Cheyenne O’Grady in the spring game — the only receiving scores in the game.
The level of reliance on tight ends during the spring surprised even the current players. So it’s very likely recruits are feeling the same way. Craddock hopes the pleasant surprise of finding out what he has in store for tight ends will help lead the best recruiting targets at the position to Fayetteville.
“I would hope the top tight ends in the country would want to come here because that’s what it revolves around,” Craddock said. “We have to have that guy and we can’t just have one. We have to have three or four and that’s what excited me about when we first got here at Arkansas.”
Joe Craddock pitches to Hudson Henry?
Craddock even had a pitch that seemed to be directly aimed at top in-state recruit Hudson Henry.
“If I’m the No. 1 tight end or a top tight end in the country, I’m coming here.”
Though Craddock can’t mention Henry by name, Henry is the No. 1 tight end recruit in the class. He’s also at the very top of Arkansas’ 2019 recruiting board being from Pulaski Academy in Little Rock. It’s pretty obvious who Craddock was talking to with that comment.
Henry (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) is the younger brother of both former Arkansas star tight end Hunter Henry and current sophomore linebacker Hayden Henry. Their father, Mark, also played for the Razorbacks.
Despite the close connections to the program, Hudson’s path to Fayetteville isn’t a forgone conclusion. His offer list is loaded with many of the top programs in the country, several of which he has visited or plans to in the near future.
With so much competition for a recruit Arkansas really needs to keep in the state, it’s crucial the staff now has a productive spring from the position to sell.
Arkansas staff previously used WR for TE role
So, what happened at SMU with tight ends? The Mustangs had three tight ends combine for a total of 4 catches with Morris and Craddock running their offense last season.
The problem was they simply didn’t have the players for a tight end to serve as a receiving threat. Instead, they used wide receiver Trey Quinn (6-0, 212) to account for the lack of a target with more size. It worked out just fine as Quinn led the nation with 114 receptions. But the preference is still to have more of a tight end skill set fit into that role.
“We were using a receiver instead of a tight end,” Craddock said. “I really like the bigger bodies that we have [at Arkansas] to do those things. A lot of what we were doing is kind of new for us as coaches. The past couple of years, we’ve been using a receiver when now we’re using those big-bodied tight ends that get those targets that a Trey Quinn last year led the country with. Now, those targets are going to the tight ends.”
Morris’ Clemson tenure backs up Craddock’s words. In 2011 with Morris as offensive coordinator, the Tigers’ Dwayne Allen won the Mackey Award. He had 50 catches for 598 yards 8 touchdowns that season.
Now that the targets have shifted back towards the tight end spot, the staff is obviously selling that on the recruiting trail. It’ll be interesting to see how well it works with Henry. It’s essentially him or bust at tight end in the 2019 class.
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