Arkansas' reputation catches eye of 2020 prospects

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2019
Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. throws a football during warmups prior to the Razorbacks' game against LSU on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. throws a football during warmups prior to the Razorbacks' game against LSU on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville.

A few years back, ESPN named Arkansas as the current Running Back U on the strength of the college performances of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Peyton Hillis and others.

As I listen to a tight end recruit talking this past weekend about his unofficial visit to Arkansas, I was reminded of how it has a claim to Tight End U as well.

Former Razorbacks D.J. Williams, Hunter Henry, A.J. Derby and Jeremy Sprinkle are few who have gone on to the NFL and had success in the past decade with the latter three currently playing in the league.

Williams won the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end in 2010 and Henry took the honors in 2015 with the pair giving Arkansas and Iowa the only schools with multiple winners since the inception of the award in 2000.

Arkansas senior Cheyenne O'Grady (6-4, 251), who had 30 catches, 499 yards, and 6 touchdowns despite missing two games early is the next Razorback tight end poised to be a Mackey Award nominee and NFL player while great things are expected from Pulaski Academy's Hudson Henry (6-5, 230), the nation's top high school tight end last season.

Those two will join an Arkansas tight end room to a group that also has Grayson Gunter (6-6, 238) and Chase Harrell (6-4, 215) and walk-ons Trey Purifoy (6-7, 237) and Blake Kern (6-4, 257) set to man the position as well this season.

Arkansas' tight ends caught 47 passes for 714 and 8 touchdowns in last season's 12 games while Harrell caught 11 passes for 61 yards as a big wide receiver.

The tight end had not been a factor at SMU with no tight ends on the Mustang roster when Chad Morris arrived in Dallas, but he embraced the position with arms wide open when he found plenty on the Razorback roster when he arrived.

That has the attention of Allen Horace (6-4, 233) of Crockett, Texas, and Dallas Bishop Dunn's Elijah Yelverton (6-5, 225), two three-star prospects that are both ranked in the Top 25 nationally at their position per 24/7 and who visited Arkansas this past weekend.

"The coaches are pretty cool," Horace said. "They are like my coaches at home. I have a great relationship with them. They have three tight ends in the NFL, so they've done really well with tight ends."

Horace had 29 catches for 468 yards and nine touchdowns last season and has offers from Arkansas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Houston and others.

"They did pretty well making a case for themselves but they've always been at the top of my list," Horace said after his visit. "Texas Tech and Baylor are also recruiting me hard."

The 25th-best prospect at his position, Horace has no qualms about leaving Texas to play his college football.

"It was my first time coming up to Arkansas, it took seven hours but it was nice," Horace said. "Driving through Oklahoma and through the mountains was nice."

"Leaving Texas is leaving Texas, I'm not a die hard Texas person. Playing in the SEC, that would amazing."

Yelverton, who has offers from Arkansas, Arizona State, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Boston College, Colorado and others, noticed a difference from his trip to Fayetteville last year.

"There's a different energy, they're pumped up," Yelverton said. "They helped they're chance for me every day when they hit me up, but this visit helped too."

Yelverton, ranked as the 11th-best tight end nationally, had done his homework on Morris and tight ends coach Barry Lunney, Jr.

"I have a great relationship with Coach Lunney and now with... Coach Morris, too," Yelverton said. I love what they do with the tight ends. I caught Coach Lunney [off guard] because I do a lot of research on schools and I had some info he didn't even know about his guys."

Yelverton, who has 52 catches for 661 yards and nine touchdowns his past two seasons, plans to make a decision sooner than after.

"I don't have more visits planned right now, I'll try to set my officials up for the spring and Arkansas probably earned one," Yelverton said. I don't know who else will get them but I plan to do them early so I can commit before my senior season.

"The big factor here is that it's like a big family. The atmosphere and the fans, everything, you gotta love it."

Sports on 03/14/2019


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