By Otis Kirk
Arkansas has seen the tight ends get more and more involved in the passing game.
It’s hardly a coincidence that has coincided with the return of Cheyenne O’Grady who was suspended the first two games of the season. Chad Morris talked about the play of the tight ends including O’Grady on Monday.
“Well, not just C.J., but you had a lot of guys,” Morris said. “I think our tight ends caught nine balls last week and were targeted another four or five more times. I think this has been a progress of I think there’s a lot of things involved here. Tom (Murphy) mentioned earlier about the growth of our offense. Where we were earlier in the year, we weren’t there yet. We just weren’t. There was a lot of inconsistencies and we had to get some things fixed before we could start getting all of the puzzle pieces in place.
“But I think, not just tight end recruits, but I think recruits in general see the progress that’s being made and the excitement level that can continue to grow.”
On Saturday it was actually 10 receptions by the tight ends. O’Grady had seven catches for 48 yards and two touchdowns, Austin Cantrell two receptions for 21 and Grayson Gunter one for 10. Morris was asked if he is surprised by the success of O’Grady?
“I knew he was extremely talented,” Morris said. “But, again, there’s a lot of talented people out there that don’t have success. It’s how you channel it and how you develop it.
“He has taken on the role and the responsibility. one of the pillars of our culture is accountability, and he’s taken some accountability in this process, too. I think that when you see the way he’s practiced the last couple of weeks you understand, ‘Wow, you have a very bright future, and we’re here to help you see it.'”
Morris also was asked about not giving up on O’Grady during the discipline early in the season.
“First of all, we’re not going to give up on anybody,” Morris said. “We love each and everyone of these young men. They’re a son and they’re learning valuable lessons in life. And as long as they care of business, we’re in this to help them develop more than just to become a football player.
“Sometimes that’s some hard lessons, and it has zero to do with talent. That’s always been my message coaching. Is take care of the things you can control. A lot them require zero talent. And if you don’t do that, there’s consequences for your actions. We’re not compromising. This is who we are. This is how we’re going to ve this program to where we all want it to be.
“I think the message was sent loud and clear and I think he heard it loud and clear.
It’s really to see him progress. This is two weeks in row some good things have happened, but what you see is on the field. What see is off-the-field, too. A lot really good things that are happening.”
What are those things?
“Just his approach to every day,” Morris said. “Coming in every day and getting better. Getting better in every walk of his life right now.”
The previous week against Texas A&M, O’Grady caught three passes for 77 yards with a long of 36. Arkansas offensive coordinator Joe Craddock talked about the success of the tight end screens against the Tide including a play from the Kansas City Chiefs.
“We’ve always had a couple of tight end screens in the playbook,” Craddock said. “We watch film a little bit of the NFL for a few things that can help you with different things that different people are doing. Some new wrinkles. But we’ve always had that kind of play in the system. We are learning our guys a little more as we go and learning that we’ve got guys that can make some plays that weren’t in there earlier in the season that are getting the opportunity that have shown to be a playmaker that deserves to get the ball a little bit more. So we are just installing our offense as we go. The biggest thing is the retention level of our guys.”
Craddock also talked about the second touchdown for O’Grady on Saturday. It was a three-yard pass from Cole Kelley.
“Just how we drew it up,” Craddock joked. “No, they did a really good job. I kind of second-guessed myself on that call. First down, I really wanted to call it on first down. We were having a little bit of success at that time running the football and putting Cole (Kelley) in there. Looking back on a Monday, offensive coordinator, you know, couch quarterback we’ll call it, probably should’ve called that on first down.
“Came to it on second (down). I don’t think they sniffed it out. I think CJ felt that way because the safety was kind of playing over there. CJ’s supposed to hit the end a little bit, block the end and sell it a little bit more. He felt like he had to do something a little bit different because of where the safety was. Him and Cole worked it out. I know Cole, he told me yesterday that he thought he was going to run the ball but the last minute, he saw CJ come open. So, I’d like to say it’s how we drew it up, but it’s not. Those guys made a heck of a play and obviously we were able to get a touchdown out of it.”
Arkansas will be in Little Rock on Saturday to play host to Ole Miss at 6:30 p.m. They will return to Fayetteville the following Saturday to host Tulsa at 11 a.m. Both games will be televised on the SEC Network.