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Arkansas Football 2018 Preview: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

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Hey there’s some depth here!

NCAA Football: Coastal Carolina at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Main Returners

  • Austin Cantrell (Jr, 6’3” 263 lbs.)
  • Jared Cornelius (Sr, 5’11” 203 lbs.)
  • Jordan Jones (So. 6’1” 180 lbs.)
  • Cheyenne O’Grady (Jr, 6’4” 251 lbs.)
  • Jonathan Nance (Sr. 6’0” 190 lbs.)
  • Jeremy Patton (Sr, 6’5” 253 lbs.)
  • La’Michael Pettway (Jr, 6’2” 219 lbs)
  • Deon Stewart (Jr, 5’11” 161 lbs.)

Main Newcomers

  • Chase Harrell (Jr, 6’4” 230 lbs.)
  • Michael Woods (Fr, 6’1” 190 lbs.)

Who Else

  • Jarrod Barnes (So, 6’0” 5’11” 183 lbs.)
  • Gary Cross (6Sr, 6’1” 188 lbs.)
  • Tobias Enlow (So, 6’2” 207 lbs.)
  • Grayson Gunter (So, 6’6” 238 lbs.)
  • Kolian Jackson (rFr, 6’2” 211 lbs.)
  • Blake Kern (So. 6’4” 257 lbs.)
  • Tyson Morris (So, 6’2” 207 lbs.)
  • Trey Purifoy (Jr, 6’7” 237 lbs.)
  • De’Vion Warren (So, 5’10” 180 lbs.)

One Big Question: How Will Chad Morris Use This Depth?

This Arkansas team has something that Chad Morris really didn’t have at SMU last year, depth at the skill positions. Jared Cornelius is back, Jonathan Nance had a nice 2017 season, Morris has said positive things about both Jordan Jones and La’Michael Pettway. Then there’s also the two newcomers and tight ends. At SMU, the passing offense leaned heavily on Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton, and with good reason. Sutton was a legitimate NFL talent and one of the best in the AAC.

As Ian Boyd at the main SB Nation site pointed out, there is a misconception that Morris’ spread is an air raid one. Instead it’s one that focuses on on the run game and will use a more vertical passing game. Using S&P+, SMU had a 44.8% passing success rate (27th in the country compared to Arkansas’ 96th) and a 37.2% success rate on passing downs (9th in the country compared to Arkansas’ 36th). So in passing downs, Arkansas is going to sling it around and it won’t be a quick slant on 3rd and 10. In those situations the wide receivers are going to be relied upon to get down the field, and quick.

They also had very little tight end use at SMU last year, Arkansas has three that will get playing time in Austin Cantrell, Cheyenne O’Grady, and Jeremy Patton. Morris has repeatedly said that the offense will play to its strengths and that includes using the tight end. This could also pay dividends in the future with Arkansas’ top rated recruiting target Hudson Henry waiting to see how Arkansas uses the tight end position. We don’t really have a great reference point as to how that will look because Morris didn’t utilize them much in 2017, but we did get a taste of it with O’Grady getting two touchdowns in the spring game.

SMU had three wide receivers catch double digit passes in 2017, if you include the tight ends Arkansas had double that. It will be interesting to see how the offensive play calling spreads the ball around, especially in a more vertical system. Cornelius has proven himself as a deep threat, and Morris has told media he likes what he’s seen out of Jones and his speed. The ability that Harrell and the tight ends have in the red zone will likely also be an important factor this season.

Oddly enough, after all of the talk of smash mouth football in the previous era of Arkansas football, this is probably the deepest part of the roster. Now it’s up to Morris and staff to find a way to best use it.