A year ago, almost exactly. A 2-3 Arkansas team. Alabama week. Dominique Reed.
The lithe Arkansas wide receiver was five games into his Division I career. Called the jewel of the 2015 recruiting class, Reed had not come close to living up to that billing. He flashed a bit the week before with a 33-yard touchdown catch against Tennessee, his speed brilliant and potential aglow. All told, he still had but 3 catches for 42 yards in the team’s first five games.
The question was begged: Where Is This Guy?
Come back to the present. Same question.
Reed has both been frustrated and caused frustration for the Razorbacks this year. After turning it on over the team’s final eight games last year (25 catches for 493 yards and 5 touchdowns), much was expected in his final season. Nothing has panned out. His first five games this year look a lot like those first five last year: 4 catches for 53 yards and no scores. Reed hasn’t caught a pass in two straight games. His status as game-breaker has been usurped by Jared Cornelius, who is coming off consecutive 100-yard-plus games with 3 touchdowns receiving.
Yet, we’re still titillated by what could be. Reed showed everyone he’s capable last year when the light turns on. Even despite zero catches in the last two games, wide receivers coach Michael Smith said those two have been an improvement over where he was before. At what point, though, does the waiting stop?
“It’s going to turn,” Smith said. “This is the thing. Dominique is as good a wide receiver as I’ve ever coached. He is learning how to play the position on a consistent basis. When he’s doing that, he’s as good as anybody in the country. And that’s my job to get that out of him every week and every day at practice.”
Maybe it’s this week against Alabama, the same team his breakout was achieved against last year. Reed had 3 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown against the Crimson Tide in Arkansas’ late loss. Another game like that might be just what he needs.
But with everything else Reed, the answer is unpredictable.
On Wednesday, we gave you the heads-up that Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples was in town. He joined us, the beat writers, during media availability Tuesday night. Staples stuck around Wednesday to speak at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club, where he proceeded to say Arkansas has a real shot at pulling the upset this weekend.
Ears perked. Staples did not go so far as to predict the upset necessarily this weekend. He did say, though, “someone is going to get them this year,” citing a freshman quarterback, right tackle and running back. Alabama is ripe for the picking (off).
So, why not Arkansas, huh?
Arkansas held its basketball media day Tuesday and one thing is clear: This team has the NCAA Tournament written all over it.
I’ve gone so far as to say I think this is the second-best team in the SEC right now. I’ve yet to look at others in-depth — although I have to during the early part of next week to make my order of finish predictions for the league’s media poll — I just think the world of this roster. And, as I’m often reminded, Mike Anderson.
It’s true. I think Anderson is a hell of a coach. I really do. The program was a disaster when he took it over from John Pelphrey. Maybe even as big a mess as what John L. Smith left Bret Bielema. Anderson had things turned around with Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls, then both left a year early and things went back to mediocre last year.
This year, though, whew, this year. Moses Kingsley is on the shortlist of potential conference Player of the Year honors. Dusty Hannahs is the best shooter in the country. Guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon were the top two junior college recruits in the country. Adrio Bailey is an athletic freak, if raw. Anton Beard and Manny Watkins are gritty. About the only thing missing is “4” play. As in, a complementary big man to go next to Kingsley. Dustin Thomas could prove competent in the role, though.
And there’s this.
"I'm putting these guys through everything I possibly can. We have a 40 Minutes of Hell at every practice before we even touch a ball." – MA
— Razorback Basketball (@RazorbackMBB) October 5, 2016
Talent plus experience plus Anderson’s style equals big things. Count on it.
More to come as basketball season edges closer.
Former Arkansas baseball player Andrew Benintendi will get his first taste of the Major League Baseball postseason when his Boston Red Sox play a best-of-5 series against Cleveland starting Thursday night.
Benintendi will almost certainly be the team’s starting left fielder, but he might see a change elsewhere after putting up a .295/.359/.476 slash line in 34 games during the regular season. Over at SB Nation, Ben Buchanan thinks Benintendi is too good to keep batting in his usual nine-hole.
This brings us to the one batter whose place in the lineup is clearly too low right now: Andrew Benintendi. The rookie has shown no problem adapting to Major League pitching, hitting .295/.359/.476 right out of the gates with the Sox. Those numbers aren’t that much lower in 44 plate appearances since returning from injury. A Benintendi at-bat looks like it’s coming from someone who’s been in the league for six or seven years, not six or seven weeks. He’s been a perfect fit in the Red Sox’ extremely disciplined lineup, it’s just a question of where in the lineup that fit has been. Except that one game immediately after the Sox clinched the East where half the starters were given the day off, Benintendi has hit eighth or ninth in every single one of his starts this season.
His hitting is superb for a second-year professional and his mitt isn’t bad, either. This catch is a Web Gem of the Year nominee.
Something tells me there will be a lot of BoSox fans in Arkansas these next couple weeks.
A homecoming of sorts
Josh Frazier will finally get to play in front of his crowd. Even if his crowd will be rooting against his team.
Frazier, a junior defensive tackle at Alabama, is from Springdale, Fayetteville’s bordering town to the north. He was an Arkansas recruit while at Har-Ber High School but instead chose Alabama, where he has worked his way from almost no action into a top reserve role this season.
He doesn’t have the star power of some of his Alabama defensive teammates, but Nick Saban pointed him out specifically Tuesday as the sort of player who can make an impact thanks to Arkansas’ offensive scheme. Meaning, Arkansas isn’t a spread and Frazier, as a nose guard, is likely to see more time trying to swallow Razorbacks offensive linemen.
“This is his kind of game,” Saban said.
On the flip side, Arkansas has senior defensive end Ja’Michael Winston from Alabama. He also will play a reserve role in his final go-around with the Crimson Tide.
Keon Hatcher, dealing with a bum leg, is expected to be back and ready to fully go against Alabama this week, writes our Trent Shadid.
Anderson doesn’t anticipate having any more issues with junior college transfer Arlando Cook after his alcohol-related arrest over the weekend, writes WholeHogSports.com.
Alabama is getting some of its best players healthier ahead of the game with the Hogs, according to SEC Country’s Marq Burnett.
Even with Staples saying good things about Arkansas at the luncheon, he had a different comment later in the afternoon on the radio show Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly.
Staples: If you think Bret Bielema is going to put Ark in a position to contend for the SEC West every year, you’re living in fantasy land.
— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) October 5, 2016
Kudos to Staples for speaking his mind when lots of others often placate the locals. I tend to agree with him, honestly. But Bielema is doing as well as could have been hoped so far. Besides, all you need is one in the right direction and who knows.
Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas
Trigger warning. #GetOffMyLawn coming.
Y’all gotta cut this out. I’m not even afraid of clowns, but someone is going to get shot and killed doing this stuff.
— AR Democrat-Gazette (@ArkansasOnline) October 6, 2016
Remember that “knockout game” crap that people were so scared was sweeping the nation a few years ago? It never did. This, though, is happening too often in too many places. Three teens playing that stupid scary clown garbage were arrested in northwest Arkansas on Wednesday, thankfully.
Quit, OK? Just stop it. Because if you don’t …