Before there was high-stepping into the endzone and pulling out cellphones from under the goalpost (got to give it to former Saints WR Joe Horn on that one), there was Andre Rison, who unassumingly handed the ball to the referee after scoring a touchdown. Back before there were Ochocinco's or T.O.'s, there was Jerry Rice, catching the ball at its highest point. Before the glitz and the glamour of one-handed catches, there was the praising of precise route-running
Simply put, before the wide receiver position possessed more divas than Jersey Shore, there was blue-collar, old school players who truly made the position what it is today.
So, if you count yourself among the few, the proud, the old school football fan who yearns for the days of Irvin, Monk and Rice, then I've got a wide receiving corp for you to follow.
Throwback football nation, meet the Arkansas Razorbacks wide receivers.
They have game-breaking speed (Joe Adams and Cobi Hamilton), reliable, pass-catching hands (Jarius Wright), physicality and precise route-running (Greg Childs).
And, how much talk will you hear out of these Hogs?
Outside of the occasional in-game trash talking, you'd have a better chance of finding Chad Ochocinco focused solely on football than the Razorback receivers drawing attention to themselves in the media.
So, without further adieu, let's meet the top four returning receivers on the Razorback squad who will draw praise and accolades all season long in 2011.
Hometown: Texarkana, TX
Notable 2010 Stats: Caught 32 passes for 630 yards and six touchdowns.
Everyone in War Memorial Stadium was shocked.
As the first half dwindled down in the SEC conference finale between rivals Arkansas and LSU, no one expected a big play for the Razorbacks going into halftime. The vaunted Arkansas offense had been largely held in check throughout the first half, as the Tigers' stifling defense had kept Ryan Mallett and company from breaking out.
That is, until Cobi Hamilton tore down the middle of the field for an 80-yard touchdown pass as time expired.
Though this was Hamilton's crowning achievement of the 2010 season, it by no means was an anomaly. Few among the Razorback faithful will forget Hamilton's equally impressive 71-yard touchdown romp against Texas A&M that kept the Razorbacks ahead for good.
The list of catches goes on (including that dandy you see at the top of the screen) for the junior from Texarkana, almost making everyone forget that he is the fourth wide receiver.
Yes, you read that correctly, the fourth receiver caught two 70-plus yard touchdown catches and had over 630 yards receiving last season.
This reality not only speaks to the remarkable depth among the Razorbacks receiving corp, but how well Hamilton takes advantage of the opportunities he is afforded. Hamilton is able to do this so effectively because he possesses excellent speed (he is also a sprinter for the 40-time National Championship-winning Arkansas Track and Field team) and the ability to separate from defenders.
These traits were on display in the aforementioned 70-plus yard touchdown catches Hamilton had in 2010. In his game-breaking TD against LSU, Hamilton simply blew by his defender and never looked back. Against the Aggies in Cowboy Stadium, Hamilton had to work through more contact, especially when he went for the ball with the defender hanging all over him. He exhibited great body control as he looked the ball into his hands, shook the falling defender, then coasted into the endzone.
Both textbook plays for a receiver to make, and both resulted in touchdowns.
In the 2011 season, expect Hamilton to bring back some of that magic from last season and work even harder to become one of new QB Tyler Wilson's main targets. As the secondary for LSU and Texas A&M can attest to, few do it better in the open field than Cobi Hamilton.
Hometown: Warren, AR
Notable 2010 Stats: Caught 42 passes for 788 yards and five touchdowns.
In the never-ending line of receivers possessing cheetah-like speed that the Razorbacks will split out wide in 2011, perhaps no one owns a more impressive play than Jarius Wright.
In the Razorback's back-and-forth 38-31 double overtime victory over Mississippi State in 2010, Jarius Wright got a step in front of his defender. A record-setting 89 yards later, Wright finally reached pay dirt in a monumental play that silenced the cowbells in Starkville.
Not only was it the longest play of Wright's career, but it was the second-longest passing play in the SEC in 2010. Yet, even more impressive, it ranks as the second-longest touchdown play in school history.
Not bad for the 5'10" Wright, who was told that he was too short to play wide receiver at a major Division I school.
Yet, what truly separates Jarius Wright from his Razorback peers are his rock-solid, dependable hands. Wright doesn't have the height to be a true "possession receiver," so he makes up for it by running precise routes and catching the ball in traffic as well as anyone in the country. He utilizes his more diminutive frame to make tough catches and gain solid yards after contact. And, when Wright can't out-muscle a defender for the ball, he uses his top-notch speed to blow by him.
Case in point, Wright ranked fifth in the SEC in 2010 with 23 catches of 15-plus yards. This is indicative of a complete skill-set that is augmented by tremendous athleticism.
In 2011, when the accolades and awards start pouring through Fayetteville, look for Jarius Wright, all 5'10" of him, to stake his claim as a worthy recipient.
Hometown: Little Rock, AR
Notable 2010 Stats: Tallied 50 receptions for 813 yards and six receiving touchdowns.
For every great football team that achieved success at any level, there is at least one player on the roster versatile enough to affect the game in a multitude of ways. For the 2010 Arkansas Razorbacks, that player went by the name of Joe Adams.
Where is the evidence for this you ask?
Look no further than Adams stat line for the 2010 season. Not only did Adams lead the team with 813 receiving yards, but also ranked second in the SEC and fifth in the nation with an average of 15.56 yards per punt return. This makes Adams as big a duel-threat as anyone in the nation in 2011.
Adams' ability to be such a force on special teams and offense was a key factor to the remarkable success the Razorbacks sustained this past season. Because Adams, more often than not, put the Razorbacks in great field position after his punt returns, it gave the Hogs potent offense and quarterback Ryan Mallet a short field to work with; meaning that they could score touchdowns quicker and at a greater rate. This, in turn, allowed the defense to take chances and be more aggressive, a cause-and-effect relationship conducive to winning ballgames.
Adams is able to be so effective in so many ways because he owns unbelievable amounts of athleticism and speed (starting to notice a theme here with these guys?). In addition, Adams is almost impossible to get to the ground, because he has a vast arsenal of moves that will leave defenders grasping for air.
Need proof of this?
In Arkansas' 38-24 win over Ole Miss, which was twice delayed by lightning and rain mind you, the Razorbacks had been stalling after getting off to a slow start. After forcing the Rebels to punt, Joe Adams received the ball at the three yard-line, not the ideal spot to start a punt return. No matter, Adams spun and juked his way through all 11 Rebels trying to tackle him and sprinted to the endzone for an unbelievable 97-yard punt return for a touchdown.
The amazing play was the longest such punt return in school history, and the longest in all of the SEC in 2010. But Adams wasn't finished there. He complemented his work on special teams with two receptions for 49 yards on offense.
Just another day in the office for Joe Adams.
All of these mind-blowing plays and statistics speak to the elite level of play that Joe Adams maintains. From blowing through punt coverages, to speeding by defensive backs in coverage, Joe Adams is constant home-run threat.
Opposing teams, you have been warned.
Hometown: Warren, AR
Notable 2010 Stats: Made 46 catches for 659 yards and six touchdowns.
If there was ever one play that personified Greg Childs' contribution to the 2010 Razorback season, it sure came at a great time.
In the SEC opener on the road against Georgia, Arkansas coughed up a comfortable first half lead and found itself inside a newly resurgent Sanford Stadium crowd with the game tied late in the fourth quarter. In precarious moments such as these, the best players exhibit mental fortitude and instinct to counterbalance the pressure and tension of the moment.
Thankfully for the Razorback faithful, Greg Childs proved to be one of those players.
With Arkansas making a late charge down the field in the waning moments, All-SEC quarterback Ryan Mallet heaved a throw to the sideline that was intended for Childs. Even with the weight of a Georgia defender attempting to wrestle position away from him, Childs was able to make the tough catch in traffic, throw off the defender, cut back, and then sprint to the endzone.
Touchdown. Arkansas wins.
If it weren't for a season-ending injury suffered during the 49-14 blowout win over Vanderbilt, Childs was well on his way to contending for the Biletnikoff Award (given to the top wide receiver in the nation). Childs was on pace to amass over 1,000 yards receiving and make 75 receptions, which would have put him at or near the top of the SEC in each category.
All of this should give the Razorback nation plenty to cheer for in 2011, assuming that Childs is healthy. By all accounts, Childs has made a full recovery and plans to be back at full strength for this season. Yet, these positive signs are nothing but speculation until Childs puts the doubts to rest on Saturday, September 3rd, when he will (hopefully) take the field in the Razorback's first contest against Missouri State.
However, if Childs comes out of the gates with guns blazing like it was 2010, here is what opposing defensive coordinators have to look forward to:
Solid, dependable hands and a superior ability to make tough catches in traffic. Great stamina and strength, and the distinct ability to gain huge chunks of yardage after the catch. Doesn't possess the cheetah-like speed of a Joe Adams or Cobi Hamilton, but, more importantly, is never caught from behind in the open field. Above all, Childs earned his role as Arkansas' go-to receiver through his incomparable and precise route-running skills.
If you're an opposing cornerback, he sounds like a real treat to cover, doesn't he?
All sarcasm aside, what has become crystal clear in our analysis of Greg Childs is that, simply put, the man comes to play. Possessing all the physical tools and necessary football instincts sure helps too.
Now, turning my attention back to you, old-school football fans, I hope you've enjoyed the in-depth look at the Razorback receiving corp. Pay close attention to them this season, because they sure don't make them like this anymore.