Arkansas is set to begin its first spring under coach Chad Morris next week. The Razorbacks are scheduled to practice 14 times between March 1 and April 9, though another date could be added with the NCAA allowing up to 15 practices. The spring game will be played April 7 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
When spring practice gets underway, the tight ends will find out how different things are going to be under Morris. The six scholarship tight ends on the roster should be excited by the fact Morris has coached a Mackey Award winner in the past — Clemson’s Dwayne Allen in 2011.
The group will have the advantage of some familiarity within the coaching staff with tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. being retained from the previous staff. As Lunney prepares to work with his players in the new system for the first time, here are three things the Hogs should look to accomplish this spring at the position:
Evolving the position
It’s very possible no position group on the roster is undergoing more change with the new coaching staff than tight ends. Arkansas is still going to use them but in a much different manner than during the Bret Bielema era.
In Morris’ spread scheme, the position group will have its hand in the dirt far less often. The tight ends will likely play an H-back role frequently and at times split out with the wide receivers in order to create mismatches in the passing game. There also won’t be more than one on the field nearly as often as in recent years.
Spring practices will give the current tight ends their first chance to adjust to the changes. Those who adapt quickly will obviously have the best chance at creating a role for themselves next season.
Who fits and who doesn’t?
Morris had four on-scholarship tight ends last season at SMU. That’s seems to be the number he envisions on Arkansas’ roster in the future.
Arkansas didn’t sign a tight end in its 2018 class. The Hogs have Hudson Henry as their top — and, basically, only — tight end target in the 2019 class. With them making room for a 2019 addition, they’ll trim the tight end scholarship number from six to five heading into the 2019 season as things stand now.
Arkansas scholarship tight ends
But it’s very possible things won’t remain as they stand now. The tight ends on the current roster signed up for a much different offense, so the spring will give them a chance to see if they need to explore a potential transfer. This isn’t to say someone is definitely leaving, as there has been no indication as to who may even be considering a move. It’s just something to keep an eye on.
Take advantage of renewed opportunity
These changes don’t have to be a bad thing for the tight ends at Arkansas. There aren’t a lot of coaches with a Mackey Award winner on their résumé, and Morris is one of them.
It’s entirely possible the spread, up-tempo scheme suits some of the current tight ends better than the previous approach. The spring will be an opportunity for them to prove they can thrive in the system. That could potentially lead to securing a role next season. The most likely candidates to benefit from the change: Jeremy Patton, Cheyenne O’Grady and Will Gragg.