From room titles to big play incentives, Arkansas is aiming to make offense fun again

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2019
Justin Stepp, Arkansas wide receivers coach, runs a drill Thursday, March 1, 2018, during Arkansas spring football practice at the Fred W. Smith Football Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Justin Stepp, Arkansas wide receivers coach, runs a drill Thursday, March 1, 2018, during Arkansas spring football practice at the Fred W. Smith Football Center in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — For as long as Arkansas offensive coordinator Joe Craddock has known receivers coach Justin Stepp, he's always had a name for his receivers room.

This year is no different, but perhaps no title or slogan for Stepp's group has taken on a life of its own like the 'Snag Crew.' While passing through airports ranging from Little Rock to Dallas to Tampa on recruiting trips, it's not uncommon for Stepp to hear shouts of approval for the new name.

"It’s kind of taken off and I want these guys to have something to hang their hat on, man, and something that’s unique," Stepp said Thursday. "I think it’s a new energy and there’s just a new feel to our room as receivers, whether that has anything to do with or not, I’m not sure.

"I’m kind of excited to see what happens."

It all started with Trey Knox, an early enrollee and one of four 4-star receivers the Razorbacks signed in its latest recruiting haul. During Knox's recruitment, his screen name on his Twitter profile read 'Snag Crew CEO.'

To this day, Stepp hasn't asked Knox about the origins of the slogan, but Stepp was asked about it a number of times amid the program's recruiting success in Tennessee - Knox's home state. In kicking off a new year, he had been looking to usher in a new brand, and the Snag Crew began to gain traction.

On Dec. 3, 2018, just more than two weeks out from the early signing period, Knox was videoed alongside Stepp announcing Stepp as 'CEO' of the group.

"It’s unique when you can go and do these in-home visits," Stepp said. "You can do them at a restaurant, you can do them at the house and you can do them at the school and it was one of those things that he wanted to put it out there that, ‘Hey, Arkansas, I’m coming.’"

Stepp and Craddock agreed the name is not only fun for the players and coaches, but brings about a level of swagger and unity that Arkansas seemingly was without for a majority of its 2-10 season in 2018.

"Everyone started playing this game because it was fun at one time in their life," Craddock added. "And even being at the highest division in college football, you’ve got to keep it fun. It’s all about that. If the guys aren’t having any fun then they’re not going to be the best player they can be."

Arkansas ranked next to last in the SEC in 2018 in percentage of possessions that resulted in scores of at least 20 yards. But with the additions of Knox, Shamar Nash, Treylon Burks and TQ Jackson alongside returning players like Mike Woods, Jordan Jones, Koilan Jackson and De'Vion Warren, Arkansas' offensive staff feels it has taken the steps necessary to make that statistic a thing of the past.

Not to mention the Razorbacks also return tight end Cheyenne O'Grady, the team's leading returning receiver, as well as four-star Pulaski Academy tight end Hudson Henry.

The two coaches, in the name of breaking up the monotony of practice, also have a few things up their sleeves this spring in regards to incentivizing explosive plays in the passing game. At SMU, when receivers would hit a big play, Craddock said, a graduate assistant would present a baseball bat to the player to mimic hitting a home run.

"You’ve seen the turnover chains, the turnover belts and the turnover trash cans and all that," Craddock said. "Offensively, we got tired of seeing our defense throwing the ball in the trash can, so we got the ball and the bat and if you hit a big play, we let you take a swing at the fence.

"It’s something to add some fun to the practice and make it a big deal, really celebrate the fact that you hit a big play."

Stepp wouldn't give away all of the details on what the offensive coaches have in store for spring practices and his room, but he's sure it will be a positive when it comes to competition for a group that he described as a good mixture of youth and experience.

"These kids work way too hard for it not to be fun," Stepp said. "We want to have fun, we want the kids to have fun. The fun is in the winning and we’ve got a long way to go before the season starts, but it’s about getting one percent better every day and celebrating the one percent in practice.

"Celebrate the heck out of it every single day."

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