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 was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
SEC stage not too big for Treylon Burks
Treylon Burks, Arkansas wide receiver, runs the ball in the fourth quarter vs Kentucky Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coaches are hesitant to put too much on freshman receiver Treylon Burks' plate in the early stages of his Razorbacks career.
But, according to offensive coordinator Joe Craddock, the staff is actively searching for new and unique avenues to get the electric freshman more involved. Midway through a season in which not much has gone right for Arkansas, Burks has been a bright spot in more ways than one.
"We've got to get him the ball as many times as we can," Craddock said Monday. "He’s obviously proven to be a very dynamic player with the ball in his hands. ... We are consistently thinking of ways to get him the ball and just be creative. Again, he is young. He’s still trying to learn how to line up. You saw the other night, too, at the very end, right at the snap he’s still trying to get on the ball.
"We are still trying to add some things for him to get him the ball, but also just try to keep it as simple as we can so he can just go play. That’s the main thing."
In five games, Burks, who missed the San Jose State loss with a concussion, is second on the team in all-purpose yards with 379, or 75.8 per game. While he slots behind receivers Trey Knox and Mike Woods, and tight end Cheyenne O'Grady in receiving yards, the former Warren standout has picked up 113 yards on 10 punt returns, too.
Those 113 punt return yards are the most by an Arkansas player in a season since 2014. Former defensive back D.J. Dean totaled 121 yards in his 11 opportunities. Burks' 26-yard punt return in the fourth quarter at Kentucky, as well as an 11-yard run and 15-yard catch from quarterback Ben Hicks, helped the Razorbacks take a 20-17 lead with less than 11 minutes to play.
"He’s just a great physical specimen and he plays really hard," said Hicks, who completed 5 of 8 passes for 81 yards in the loss to the Wildcats. "He’s very competitive. I love playing with him. He’s a great kid, too. I’m real proud of how everybody played (Saturday), but Treylon’s been standing out lately."
It has been said before, but Arkansas coach Chad Morris reiterated following the loss that the stage is not too big for Burks, who was a four-year varsity letterwinner with the Lumberjacks.
"We’ve got a lot of young guys out on that field right now," Morris said. "Treylon is one of those guys who has a dynamic future ahead of him. We’ve got to continue to grow him. He has definitely proven that."
Earlier in the season, Morris was asked if he had ever placed a true freshman at punt return, a truly pressure-packed and potentially dangerous position. He couldn't recall doing so. Burks, too, fields punts in a nontraditional manner, catching the ball with high hands rather than allowing it to fall into his arms.
Coaches attempted to change that technique at one point prior to the season, he said.
"That’s just how I’ve always caught the ball since junior high," Burks added. "I don’t know, it's just different I guess. They questioned me about it, but I didn’t feel comfortable catching it with my body. They just let me do it the way I do it."
Burks' hands are sure. They are also "humongous," according to O'Grady. The freshman wears size 4X gloves, he noted, and his fingers burst through the tips on a weekly basis.
"He’s got it all. He’s the first person to have the same size hands as me," said O'Grady, third on the team in receptions (22) and receiving yards (287). "It’s impressive. They might actually be bigger than mine.
"But Treylon Burks is going to be ... he already is a phenomenal player. I get excited every time we call his name or every time he catches the ball. He’s just a huge playmaker and really helping us this year. He’s going to continue to help the team in the coming years."
Burks, who tore the ACL in his left knee during his senior season at Warren, has, thanks to a mature mindset, settled into SEC play nicely and developed a significant role for the Razorbacks from the get-go.
"Honestly, after the first game I just felt (like) myself," said Burks, who shared a special bond with his late grandfather. "I had to get over thinking about my knee. I just feel comfortable now, so it’s not a problem."
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