FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas wide receivers coach Kenny Guiton spoke to his proteges shortly after Treylon Burks announced he was declaring himself early for the NFL Draft.
The message was quite simple: who here can be the man on the sidelines?
“I mean, Coach came over and told us after that, ‘He’s gone. Who’s going to step in?’” sophomore Ketron Jackson Jr. said. “Like we had the talent to do it. It’s just a question of who is going to intervene.
Senior receiver Warren Thompson finished third in the receiving unit last season, with 19 receptions to Burks’ team record 66 and senior Tyson Morris 24.
“We’re trying to build every day, just trying to build a foundation with consistency and just playing,” Thompson said. “We have the capacity in the room. It’s not gone. We will bring that. We build every day.
Building up to the spring has been a work in progress for a unit that simply doesn’t have a player who can match Burks’ combination of speed, strength, hands, focus and running.
So it’s unlikely any player could tally anything like Burks’ 1,104 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
Burks and outgoing seniors Morris and De’Vion Warren combined for 105 of the Razorbacks’ 204 receptions a year ago. Returning wide receivers totaled 30 catches, with Jackson throwing in five for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson arrived last season as one of the Razorbacks’ 2021 class star signers and racked up moderate playing time, making a big impression as a solid tackler. He said his biggest improvement came from the pitch.
“I would say the biggest improvement for me is watching more movies,” he said. “I never really watched movies when I was younger, like in high school. So watching more movies and loving getting to know the game better.”
“The game has slowed down all the way so it makes me play better. The little details. Coach Guiton always insists on the little details that I have to get from when I was a freshman until now and I apply them and it looks good.
Thompson, who had been at Florida State at the same time as current Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, is the leading returner with 19 catches for 304 yards, an impressive 16 yards per catch, with 2 touchdowns.
“I trusted Coach Briles,” Thompson said of his decision to sign with the Razorbacks. “I really didn’t know Coach [Sam] Pittman as well. But once I got here, man, I fell in love with him because he was like a different type of head coach that I had never been around before. I just enjoyed it. I enjoyed being here and still do.
Thompson earned a scholarship last season and is now a seasoned statesman in what isn’t a deep receiving corps this spring. Guiton works with a group of 10 fumbles during spring drills, and that’s if quarterback Malik Hornsby and wide receiver Jaquayln Crawford, who broke his leg in a car accident during spring break , are counted in the group.
Hornsby still works primarily as a quarterback, but his short stints on the sidelines have been electric. He sprinted past cornerback Hudson Clark on the first snap of a team period on Thursday and had to slow for the arrival of KJ Jefferson’s long ball for a possible touchdown inside the Walker Pavilion.
“Malik brings a lot of explosive outside plays, man,” Thompson said. “He’s just quick, like a next-level quick.”
Jackson added: “Honestly he was a team player. Wherever we need him to play, that’s where he plays. … He’s a quarterback, but he’s a team player. We need him to do it, so that’s what he’s going to do. He is an athlete, a very good athlete.
Hornsby turned heads with his straight-line speed, his ability to make over-the-shoulder catches and his prowess at getting up high on pitches and option plays.
“He’s an elite athlete,” Briles said. “Obviously we’ve lost a lot of receivers, so we’re trying to give that play a little boost as well.”
Hornsby retained his spot in the quarterback rotation as Jefferson’s top replacement.
“[We’re] to be honest with you, I don’t do much with him, just find ways to get him on the court and play in a number of different positions,” Briles said. “So that’s what we were able to do this spring. It was nice to be able to watch.
The addition of Jadon Haselwood, a five-star prospect who originally played in Oklahoma, has increased the level of experience in the wide body.
“He’s been like a veteran,” Jackson said. “He talks to us and makes sure we’re on the right track. I like it because I’m a young man and I have to adapt to certain things. But adding him, I feel like it’s awesome. … He’s another vet we can rely on.
Haselwood has had a solid catch streak this spring and has made an impression on Briles.
“If you talk to him, a very mature, smart kid,” Briles said. “So picking up the playbook and all of those things were really quick for him. He learns quickly. You say something to him once, and he gets it.
“He’s an experienced guy, so he did it. He played at a high level before coming here. You get something close to him, he catches the football.
At Thursday’s No. 11 spring training, the Razorbacks welcomed in a few players who had been slowed or restricted for some time, including Haselwood, who has been wearing a non-contact green jersey since he had his left shoulder pressed down. in the grass before spring. Pause.
Tight end Trey Knox and linebacker Christopher Paul, who were recovering from concussion protocols, were engaged in practice and not in non-contact green jerseys.
Paul, like Jackson and Thompson, addressed local media en masse for the first time on Thursday.
“I’ll be there on Saturday, but while I was away I was still getting mental rehearsals,” Paul said. “I always went to my leaders, like Isaiah [Nichols], Bumper Pool and people like that. I was always on the field and I was always participating and things like that. So it was not a major thing for me.
WIDE RECEIVERS AT A GLANCE
Return entries Nothing
Losses Treylon Burks (12 starts in 2021), Tyson Morris (13), De’Vion Warren (11), Kendall Catalon, Darrin Turner, JD White
who is back Warren Thompson (3), Ketron Jackson, Bryce Stephens, Jaedon Wilson, Landon Rogers, Jaquayln Crawford
who is new Jadon Haselwood, Quincey McAdoo, Malik Hornsby (QB)
Walks Harper Cole, Chris Harris
Analysis Contenders to become starting QB KJ Jefferson’s top target have rotated mostly among comebacks Warren Thompson, Ketron Jackson Jr. and high-profile transfer Jadon Haselwood, who has been training in a non-contact green jersey most of the spring. Bryce Stephens has elite speed but his catching consistency needs to improve, like Thompson. The Harper Cole walk-on has made a name for itself with several acrobatic catches, but can the walk-on earn reps on game day? So there’s a lot more wide-body relationship to Jefferson and quarterbacks that needs to be built between late spring and the start of training camp.