Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
HOG FUTURES JARED CORNELIUS:
Razorbacks want ball in Cornelius’ hands
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, back, watches on as Jared Cornelius catches a pass during spring football practice Tuesday, April 22, 2014, at University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
The fourth article in a series profiling newcomers on the 2014 Arkansas Razorbacks football team.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Jared Cornelius has great hands.
Everybody says so, from former coaches to current coaches to the Arkansas quarterbacks who throw him the football.
Jared Cornelius glance
WEIGHT 195 pounds
LAST STOP Evangel Christian Academy
NOTEWORTHY Early enrollee had a solid spring debut with a number of good catches. … Caught 71 passes for 1,189 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior after recording 90 receptions for 1,585 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. … A three-star prospect by ESPN, Rivals and Scout. … Rated the No. 23 prospect in Louisiana and No. 89 receiver in the country by Rivals. … Rated the No. 47 prospect in Louisiana by 247Sports.com. … Son of former LSU and Louisiana Tech defensive lineman Shannon Cornelius. … Chose Arkansas over offers from Missouri, Tennessee, TCU, Houston and San Diego State.
Cornelius also has good speed, vision and cutting ability -- all important traits for a receiver -- but it's his hands that draw rave reviews.
"He's got exceptionally strong hands, as strong as anybody we have," Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. "He can really snatch the ball."
Regulars at the Razorbacks' spring practices, which Cornelius participated in as an early graduate from Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, saw the 6-1, 195-pounder make a series of good-hands grabs. His highlight tape from a standout career at pass-heavy Evangel also shows Cornelius' prime football skills.
"He catches with his hands at all times and he has great hand-eye coordination," said DJ Curry, Evangel Christian's receivers coach and a former all-conference receiver at Louisiana Tech. "He has real quick eyes, and he's the total package."
Cornelius' hands are suited for more than just catching footballs and lifting weights. A music lover, he has played the drums since the age of 3 and now plays piano, guitar, keyboard, saxophone, trumpet and organ, as well as other instruments.
"If I'm not on the field or studying, I'm usually playing music somewhere," said Cornelius, who has made beats for recording artists in his home studio and has a mock studio set up in his dorm room.
"He's multi-talented," said Evangel Christian Coach Byron Dawson, the former LSU standout. "The kid knows music. ... If you know anything about music, you know there's a lot of late nights. So he was able to balance our strenuous schedule -- you know, we train like a college football program here, early in the morning, two-a-days, year-round football -- and also be up late at night focusing on his music.
"Being great with his academics, good enough to graduate early, just shows what type of discipline he has as far as time management and understanding everything."
Cornelius, who wore jersey No. 1 at Evangel and for Arkansas in the spring, is off to a great start but wants to add more to his overall build after an event early in the spring.
"Second day in pads, I got hit a little bit and it kind of woke me up," Cornelius said. "I think it was [Martrell] Spaight. He introduced me to the SEC. He made me start thinking real seriously about putting on some weight."
Cornelius said he exited spring weighing about 190 pounds and would like to be close to 215 pounds before opening his freshman season.
Dawson said Cornelius ranks among the top three receivers in school history.
"He's been playing for us since his freshman year," Dawson said. "When he got to Arkansas, he was ready to run routes, to get off press, do all those little things."
He teammates took notice.
"Jared is shifty and hard to cover," Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen said. "He gets open pretty easily."
Cornelius carved out a niche as a slot receiver during the spring, and he'll look to add more duties as a split end and flanker as his career progresses.
" He's really fast off the line of scrimmage," said freshman quarterback Rafe Peavey, a close friend and roommate with Cornelius. "He makes great moves. He's pretty much always open. He'll probably be a go-to guy."
Cornelius was recruited by receivers coach Michael Smith and originally committed to TCU before switching to Arkansas, where he saw a chance for early playing time. His early graduation allowed Cornelius to get a jump on Arkansas' offense.
"I wanted to be the guy who comes in early and starts and contributes to the team early and can be that play-maker," Cornelius said. "I feel like I learned a lot coming early in the spring, especially because I was used to a Spread offense. The Arkansas approach to offense is actually harder to learn."
Cornelius called his initial commitment to TCU "a spur of excitement" because he had received an offer and that he's grown close to his position coach Smith.
"He's like a father figure to me, and he's a really good guy," Cornelius said.
The Razorbacks are looking to expand the efficiency and production of their passing game to balance a solid rushing attack and see Cornelius as a quick learner who should contribute early.
"I think he picks things up," Chaney said. "He's got a very good mind. He's a smart kid. His future is extremely bright.
"When you mix athletic ability and natural talent with a good brain, good things usually go that way, so we're excited about him."
Sports on 07/03/2014