As part of an ongoing series of spring practice positional previews for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Today, we are going to focus on wide receivers. This is the third part of the offensive positional series and all that remains is quarterback.
In 2009, the Arkansas Razorbacks offense exploded onto the scene as the top offense in the SEC under new quarterback Ryan Mallett.
Mallett was able to show his arsenal of throws and strong arm in large part because of the enormous amount of talent Arkansas has at the wide receiver and tight end positions. While only one Arkansas receiver was honored by the coaches or media as an All-SEC selection (Joe Adams), the Razorbacks return the No. 1 group of receivers in the SEC.
The Razorbacks graduated four seniors who made solid contributions over their careers as Razorbacks, but the Hogs return all four starters from a year ago.
With Mallett out for the spring with a broken left foot, the Razorbacks receivers will get an opportunity to gel with their future quarterback (Mallett is expected to be a top draft pick and forgo his senior season).
In addition to all four returning starters, the Razorbacks also return three solid contributors and have ample depth on campus, and on the way from the 2010 recruiting class to keep Bobby Petrino's high-flying offense on top of the SEC.
Each wide receiver will appear in the order they appeared on the latest depth chart. Bobby Petrino's pro-style offense groups the TE with the receivers and is labeled as the Y. The four receiver positions are W, X, Y, and Z.
Joe Adams (Jr., 5'11", 182lb)
In 2009, Adams had a season to remember. Just four games into the season, Adams suffered a rare stoke at only 19 years of age. After spending nearly a month with specialists to determine the cause, Adams was cleared to play.
In stylish fashion (after missing three games), Adams returned to the field catching three passes for 109 yards and two scores; his first play was a 78-yard TD reception.
Adams finished the season third on the team in receiving yards with 29 receptions for 568 yards and seven TDs. His 19.6 yards per reception was first among starting wide receivers.
In 2010, Adams is expected to continue to be one of the best receivers in all of the SEC. He will continue to hook up with Ryan Mallett on a high number of scoring plays.
Carlton Salters (Sr., 5'11", 205lb)
Second on the depth chart at the W receiver position is veteran Carlton Salters. Salters has been a solid receiver for Arkansas coaches when they have found themselves in tight spots;last spring he put on a show in the red-white game.
Salters is as unselfish of a player as you will find and is a true leader by example on and off the field.
In his entire career ,Salters has been just shy of 200 yards total in receiving, but in 2010, he has the ability to truly have a solid contributing season.
In 2009, Salters caught just three passes for 81 yards and one score.
De'Anthony Curtis (Jr., 5'9", 215lb)
The most interesting addition to the depth chart at wide receiver comes in the form of De'Anthony Curtis.
Curtis was part of Bobby Petrino's first recruiting class and was an Under-Armour All-American RB rated among the top 10 running backs in the nation. He has been unable to work his way through the talented backfield at Arkansas and in the offseason spoke with Petrino about making a move to WR.
Curtis has shown to have good hands at Arkansas and in high school he lined up at WR at a high frequency.
Curtis is a very good blocker and extremely quick. He only had one carry as a RB in 2009 to go with four receptions for 54 yards and a score. Curtis and Salters are both at a point where it is becoming now or never. Both will have to contend in the summer with a few extremely talented 2010 WR recruits that are targeted to fight for the No. 2 spot behind Adams.
Greg Childs (Jr., 6'3", 217lb)
The biggest surprise for the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2009 was Greg Childs. Childs had a tough spring prior to 2009 and was contemplating transferring when Coach Petrino called a meeting with him and his family.
Petrino made it known to Childs and his family, how much they loved and believed in him and how much they wanted him in the Razorback family.
With a renewed sense of confidence and dedication, Childs had one of the most productive summers in conditioning and practice. By fall, he had shown himself to be one of Ryan Mallett's best big play threats.
Childs has an excellent blend of size and speed and this offseason has worked to increase that speed where he was recently timed at a sub-4.5 40.
His 48 receptions and 897 yards receiving, led the Razorbacks and his seven touchdowns were tied with Adams for most of any receiver on the team.
While Childs led the team and ranked among the top receivers in the SEC in numerous categories, he was overlooked for any league honors.
If Childs shows improvement over 2009, SEC media members and coaches will have no choice but to show him respect.
Lance Ray (Fr., 6'3", 207lb)
A player that coaches and fans have been eagerly waiting to see on the football field is Lance Ray.
Ray redshirted in his first year at Arkansas in 2009, and has drawn high praise from both Coach Petrino and quarterback Ryan Mallett for his progression and work throughout the offseason.
His size and speed is very similar to that of Childs and his hands are excellent.
In 2010, he is going to be relied upon to give Childs more rest, because in 2009 Childs would tire late in games because of his frequency on the field.
Price Holmes (So., 6'3", 190)
Walk-on Price Holmes is listed as third on the depth chart at the X receiver position. In somewhat of a surprise, he was able to surpass redshirt freshman Neal Barlow (6'6", 200lb).
Holmes spent 2009 on the scout team where he routinely made plays,showed a willingness to work hard, and learned how to impressed the coaches.
This spring is Holmes' shot to become a contributor for the Arkansas Razorbacks. In the summer, the Razorbacks will be adding some quality big receiver targets from the 2010 class that will press the competition.
D.J. Williams (Sr., 6'2", 251lb)
Two years ago, D.J. Williams was a unanimous All-SEC selection and a Mackey Award finalist. He had led the Razorbacks in receiving in 2008, and was widely regarded as one of the best TEs in the nation.
In 2009, the story was totally different. But if you ask Williams, Petrino, or anyone else in the program, it was Williams' best year.
He became a complete tight end. He blocked better and made a bigger overall impact on the Razorbacks winning games.
Still, he also racked up good offensive numbers registering 32 catches for 411 yards and three TDs. He was fourth on the team in receiving and in a Bobby Petrino's offense, the ball gets spread around to all the threats.
In 2010, Arkansas plans to get Williams more involved in the passing game. One thing Ryan Mallett will admit to is, that he needs to take what defenses are giving him and hit Williams more often, rather than opting for the deep ball.
Ben Cleveland (Sr., 6'4", 256lb)
Ben Cleveland is the last remaining member of the "Springdale Five" that came to Arkansas in 2006 that was highlight by Damien Williams and Mitch Mustain.
Cleveland has had an up-and-down career at Arkansas, but he enters 2010 in his best shape ever and with high praise from Coach Petrino.
Cleveland has to become more consistent running his routes, but most importantly he needs to stay healthy and deal with injuries better. Injuries have been his biggest hindrance over the course of his career.
In 2009, Cleveland only registered three receptions, but he is a talented threat that if Petrino opts for his two TE set, can causes defenses to be honest and allows the Razorbacks to spread the field.
In his final season, Cleveland has the chance to have his best season yet.
Chris Gragg (So., 6'3", 236lb)
Heading into 2009, there was not a player more poised to earn a bigger role in the offense than Chris Gragg. Gragg had worked his way up the depth chart and he was just behind D.J. Williams before he had a severe injury that took him out for the entire 2009 season.
Gragg is the fastest of all the TEs and he imposes a unique threat to defenses as a receiving option.
His blocking was the main area in which he needed improvement on, but leading up to his injury, he was impressing the coaches with his daily improvement.
Petrino is very high on Gragg heading into the 2010 season. He is back, bigger and stronger than ever according to Petrino, who seems eager to get Gragg on the field.
Jarius Wright (Jr., 5'10", 180lb)
The most reliable and consistent of all the Arkansas receivers is Jarius Wright. Wright runs all the routes well and the coaches and quarterbacks know exactly what they are going to get from Wright on every single play.
Wright came to Arkansas from Warren, AR along with Greg Childs and Chris Gragg.
In 2009, Wright was the second leading receiver for the Hogs with 41 catches for 681 yards and five touchdowns. He is yet another big threat receiver for the Hogs.
In 2009, the Razorbacks had 18 players make a reception and 14 of them had a 10 or greater YPR average. Wright averaged 16.6 YPR for the Hogs, who as a team averaged 15.6 YPR.
In 2010, Wright is expected to make even more plays and show improvement from his sophomore to junior seasons.
Cobi Hamilton (So., 6'3", 209lb)
The wide receiver that is seen as capable of making the biggest improvement from 2009 to 2010 is Cobi Hamilton. This is following a freshman campaign where he caught 19 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns.
Hamilton chose the Razorbacks more than a year ago over Texas and other top programs. He came to Arkansas with a confidence lacking in even many upperclassmen.
Hamilton is an athlete to the fullest and he also enjoys running track for the Arkansas Razorbacks, the 2010 SEC Indoor Champions.
One would think with Hamilton's 200-meter track exploits and speed that he is one of the fastest players on the field, but Coach Petrino had some funny things to say about that.
With a grin on his face, he said Cobi is slow in the 40. He then explained that Cobi has a slower start and while he is still a sub-4.5 40, he is far from his fastest teammates on the football field.
Petrino said Hamilton continues to get faster and faster though as he goes. Petrino said, "We need to throw the ball deeper."
With Ryan Mallett and his arm, that is sure to get a few laughs.
This group of receivers is likely to go down as one of the, if not, best to ever wear the Razorback uniform. Petrino has them all running precise routes, and with an increased speed and authority that you see matched at few programs if any in the nation.
While Arkansas plans to establish a stronger and more consistent running game in 2010, it is clear the Hogs' bread-and-butter is their passing game. When it is all said and done and the Razorbacks are looking back on all their awards and accomplishments for 2010, you should not be surprised to see Razorback WRs and TEs at the top of their positions rankings.
Next up for the offensive positional series is Part 4: Quarterbacks
This article was written by Blake Stansbery of Born Hog Wild.
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