Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Stepp hopeful receivers take play to another level
Arkansas receiver Jordan Jones lines up Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, during practice at the university practice field. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the practice.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas receivers coach Justin Stepp wasn't exactly pleased with his group's performance during Day 12 of preseason practice.
With the Razorbacks using two fields - 1s and 3s on the turf, 2s and 4s on natural grass - Stepp admits he can't keep an eye on everything that went on with his players, but he knows Thursday's work wasn't good enough.
"Not our best day," said Stepp, who took in live work on the grass field early in practice. "I'm not going to sugarcoat it. We've got to get better. ... I know on my field it's not to our standard or our standard as a group. We've got to get better.
He added that is the norm for his room to bounce back from bad showings with good days. Stepp hopes that is again the case this week as the Razorbacks gear up for their scrimmage on Saturday.
"It needs to go to another level in my room," he said.
Thursday, Arkansas' first-team receivers included freshman Trey Knox, who turned 18 this week, junior Jordan Jones and sophomore Tyson Morris. A former standout at Fayetteville High, Morris has worked his way into first-team reps behind a good attitude and three strong days to begin Week 2.
Morris' competitive nature has elevated the receivers group.
"Just the ability to get out there and make plays," Stepp said of his impressions of Morris. "He's played hard, he's practiced hard and we're going to play the guys that get out there and make plays and play the right way. They've got to play as hard as they can one play at a time.
"We're going to mix it up and put different guys in there and see who can go."
Jones, from Smackover, Ark., is another piece, ideally, offensive coaches would like to get more involved this fall. After totaling 132 yards and a score in the 2018 season opener, Jones did not top 15 receiving yards in a game the rest of the year.
Stepp said Jones has been dealing with a hip flexor, which has slowed him a bit in camp.
"But one thing Jordan has got is he is fast," he continued. "That's what we tell him - when you play fast there's no one in the country that can cover you. He has done a good job, and now it's just about being consistent and then putting good days on top of good days.
"When we get to him to combine the speed with technique he's going to be really good."
Treylon Burks, a freshman from Warren, has turned heads in his first fall camp. He also hit the practice field this week without a protective brace on his left knee, which he injured midway through his senior season with the Lumberjacks.
Burks was cleared by a pair of doctors to participate in drills without the added support.
"It was probably more of a hindrance to him than anything, so he feels comfortable without it," Stepp said. "He's done a good job. He's a pleaser, and he wants to do everything perfect. We're really pleased with him."
Earlier in the week, Razorbacks coach Chad Morris marveled at freshman TQ Jackson's speed, which he described as "elite." Following last Saturday's scrimmage, offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said he expected there to be a learning curve with Jackson in terms of the playbook.
The more comfortable Jackson becomes, the more he will be able to showcase that speed.
"He can roll. TQ can roll," Stepp said. "Obviously, being a freshman, man, there's so much to playing as a receiver in this offense. You can't just line up and go. It's one of the more complicated positions in our offense. But when he knows what he's doing there's not anybody on the field that can run with him."
While a lot of discussion surrounding the receivers revolves around Knox and Burks, sophomore Mike Woods, being looked at as the leader in the room, and Deon Stewart, entering his senior season, have been as consistent as any at the position.
Woods, who finished with 18 catches for 206 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman, reeled in one of four touchdown catches by receivers in scrimmage No. 1. Stewart is again expected to work at punt return this season as well.
"Those two are my Steady Eddie's, man," Stepp said. "They bring it every day and do a really good job trying to set the tone for the rest of the group. (Woods) has had his days, too, where he hasn't practiced very well, but he's a warrior.
"He brings it every day and I appreciate his leadership."
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