O'Grady, tight ends eager to build on 2018

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2019
Arkansas tight end Cheyenne O'Grady takes part in a drill Tuesday, March 5, 2019, during practice at the university practice facility on campus in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas tight end Cheyenne O'Grady takes part in a drill Tuesday, March 5, 2019, during practice at the university practice facility on campus in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Many around the Arkansas football program are ecstatic about the Razorbacks' latest crop of young, talented receivers.

When Arkansas put the finishing touches on its 2019 recruiting class in February, it was the only one in the nation to feature four four-star receivers - Trey Knox, Treylon Burks, Shamar Nash and TQ Jackson. Adding those talents to a room with a playmaker of sophomore Mike Woods' caliber, the Razorbacks feel as if they have the pieces in place to become more dynamic offensively in Chad Morris' second season.

For all of the publicity the receivers room has drawn, though, Arkansas has a chance to be special in another area in 2019, too - at tight end.

Cheyenne O'Grady, the senior and former Fayetteville High star, became the Razorbacks' leading returning receiver after La'Michael Pettway announced his intent to transfer on Jan. 15. O'Grady finished 2018 with 30 catches - tied with Pettway - for 400 yards and six touchdowns, which led the team.

After the fourth day of spring practice Thursday, O'Grady said he's ready to pick up where he left off last fall.

"I did have a pretty good season and I want to ... hopefully expand my game even more," he said. "Coach Morris really helps me with that as well as Coach Craddock and Coach Lunney."

O'Grady began 2018 in the coaches' doghouse and was suspended for Arkansas' season opener against Eastern Illinois due to a violation of team rules. He didn't play in the loss at Colorado State either, then did not catch a pass against North Texas and Auburn.

Four weeks into his junior season, O'Grady had seemingly become something of an afterthought offensively. Then the light came on Sept. 29 against Texas A&M as he broke out with a three-catch, 77-yard performance in AT&T Stadium.

The following week, O'Grady caught a career-high seven passes for 48 yards and two touchdowns against top-ranked Alabama and became, in a way, the focal point of the Razorbacks' passing game. He also emerged as one of the SEC's elite tight ends that day.

Now a senior and the leader of Lunney's tight ends room, O'Grady is excited about the group's potential. Chase Harrell, who played sparingly at receiver last fall, has transitioned to tight end this spring. Grayson Gunter, Hayden Johnson and Blake Kern all return as well.

"It’s a good room. We’ve got a lot of talent in there and good blockers also," Arkansas quarterback Connor Noland said Thursday. "I’m excited about them getting the ball over the middle and definitely in the pass game if they stay in to block. And then, obviously, we’ve got (Hudson) Henry coming in. Very excited about him."

O'Grady was complimentary of the entire tight ends room, particularly Harrell, whose mix of route running and route combinations is "off the charts," he said. Kern, he added, has "taken another step" in terms of improving run blocking and route running as well.

"We can't wait. We're ready to get back out there," O'Grady said. "We had a great year as a group last year. We're looking pretty solid. We've got some depth at tight end, so I think we're going to be ready."

Against Tulsa, Noland found O'Grady for two of his 10 completions, both quick-hitters that not only picked up 35 yards and two first downs, but calmed Noland's first-start nerves. Noland's first touchdown pass also found a tight end's hands - Gunter's.

"He had a great year," Noland said of O'Grady. "He was a big target over the middle, and we used him a lot last year. Hopefully we can do the same this year."

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