The offseason for the Arkansas Razorbacks has been filled with a never-ending barrage of bad news.
The latest incident involved the arrest of three players charged with residential burglary (via ESPN). The most notable player involved in this incident is standout wide receiver Marquel Wade. Wade is expected to play a significant role on the offense this season, but after the arrest he was suspended indefinitely by head coach John L. Smith.
The Razorbacks tied a NFL day draft record with three wide receivers selected in the same draft. Joe Adams (104th overall), Jarius Wright (118th overall) and Greg Childs (134th overall), were all selected in the first four rounds, leaving a big hole to fill at the wide receiver position. This is the main reason the Wade suspension is so troublesome and it is not the only offseason incident that has decimated the receiving corps.
Last week, Coach Smith announced via Fox Sports that wide receiver Kane Whitehurst was released from his scholarship. Whitehurst is just one of several Arkansas players to have a brush with the law in the offseason. Whitehurst was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and will no longer be part of the team.
Next it was 4-star recruit Quinta Funderburk leaving Arkansas after he was released from his scholarship. Funderburk has had homesickness issues since he arrived at Arkansas, and it is clear that he still has some growing up to do. The latest reports indicate that Funderburk will transfer to Syracuse and the Razorbacks will need someone else to stand up and fill the void left at the position with the mass exodus during the offseason.
The main target for quarterback Tyler Wilson will undoubtedly be Cobi Hamilton. Hamilton played in every game a year ago and will give Wilson a familiar target to go to in tough spots. Hamilton caught 32 passes for over 600 yards and six touchdowns and is labeled a preseason first-team All-SEC performer by Phil Steele’s preseason college football preview.
Which receiver will rise to the occasion?
Hamilton is up to the challenge, but he can’t do it alone. Hamilton will attract double-teams by opposing defenses and will need someone else to help carry the workload. This is where tight end Chris Gragg can step in and make an impact.
Gragg is poised for a breakout season this year with the Razorbacks. He appeared in every game a year ago hauling in two touchdowns and amassing 171 yards. These numbers will only increase this year with the immediate openings. Gragg is listed as a fourth-team All-American by Steele and he will benefit by already being familiar with Wilson.
This is the year when Gragg becomes a main target and an end zone threat in this offense.
The Razorbacks run a wide-open, high-octane offense, and in order to execute the game plan properly, they need as much talent and depth as possible. This year, the wide receiver unit will be challenged and the Razorbacks will need someone to step up their game if they hope to have a successful season.
James Brown is a B/R Featured Columnist and can be followed on Twitter here. Feel free to contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org.