Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Lunney excited about tight end crop
Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. works with Austin Tate during an April 6, 2013 practice at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — As the Arkansas Razorbacks’ most touted homegrown freshman phenom of 1992, Barry Lunney Jr. seems especially equipped to coach the Razorbacks’ most touted homegrown freshman phenom of 2013.
Lunney Jr., arriving in Fayetteville with 1992 fanfare as an All-State quarterback from Fort Smith Southside, is in his first year coaching Razorbacks tight ends. Thus, he will coach Hunter Henry, the Parade High School All-American tight end from Pulaski Academy.
The comparison from his 1992 past to Henry’s 2013 present is flattering, Lunney said, but not accurate.
“Obviously he was way more touted than I was coming out,” Lunney said. “The multi-media, the Twitter, the Facebook the recruiting services, none of that was around when I was around.”
Not that Henry needs Twitter and Facebook to be publicized, Lunney said.
“Knowing Hunter’s skill set and seeing his body makes perfect sense why he got the attention he got from a national standpoint in recruiting services and those type of things,” Lunney said. “Because he does have a special combination of size (6-6, 245) and agility. Those guys are hard to find.”
Even harder to find are those guys not fancying themselves as special as their physical gifts.
The team recognizes that, Lunney said.
“There was no sense that wehave got this freshman guy coming in that’s Mr. All-Everything,” Lunney said. “Hunter is an incredibly easy kid to get along with and be a teammate of because he is humble and carries himself quietly. He’s just a well-mannered young man and I think that has made it easy for him to be incorporated like that.”
It’s been all the easier because Austin Tate, the fifth-year senior tight end from Harrison, mentors Henry just like D.J. Williams and Chris Gragg, former Razorbacks tight ends graduated to the NFL, once mentored Tate.
“No doubt Austin is the father figure of that group,” Lunney said. “We call him Paw-Paw sometimes because he has been around for awhile. He has been great with Hunter and the other ones to mentor them. And Austin was mentored by some great ones here — D.J. and Chris. There is a lineage there of excelling that hopefully is going to continue to get passed down and will be there for awhile.”
Lunney coaches two sophomores who lettered last season, Mitch Loewen, listed as first team when spring drills ended, and Alex Voelzke who caught a 22-yard touchdown in 2012. Lunney also coaches redshirt freshman Jeremy Sprinkle of White Hall.
Loewen, 6-4, 271, and Voelzke, 6-6, 250, are big blockers.
Tate, a 6-6, 259, three-year letterman, has done everything from special teams and H-back and almost strictly blocker to catching the majority of tight end passes (14 for 111 yards) once Gragg exited with a 2012 season-ending injury.
Sprinkle, 6-6, “is fast and can catch,” Lunney said.
“We’re excited about the dynamics that the room brings,” Lunney said. “It’s not just one guy or two guys. We have a room full of guys that can contribute in our offense and special teams.”