FAYETTEVILLE — When the sources started saying Monday morning that Mike Woods was transferring the first instinct to cast doubt on it.
But as the day went on and sources started saying his locker was being cleaned out the reality started to come clear. Make no mistake, Woods leaving is a blow to the football team. The natural reaction of some is when a player leaves to insist he couldn’t play. Don’t do that with Woods. He along with Treylon Burks was one of the best one-two combos in the SEC and if you are that in the league obviously it equates to nation.
Woods as a No. 2 option with the Razorbacks caught 32 passes for 619 yards and five touchdowns. Since some have mentioned Oklahoma as a possibility for him let’s look at how Woods’ numbers here compare to the ones at OU. Marvin Mims and Theo Wease tied for the team lead in receiving. Each caught 37 passes. However, Mims’ receptions only went for 610 yards, nine less than Woods, and Wease’s totaled 530 yards.
So Woods was very productive as a No. 2 receiver with the Hogs. Burks will return after leading the team with 51 receptions for 820 yards and seven touchdowns.
The question now is who will step up to help replace Woods? Junior Trey Knox needs to get back to his form as a true freshman in 2019 when he caught 28 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns. His production last season fell off to seven catches for 70 yards. Knox had good spring game when he caught a pair of passes for 46 yards including one covering 42.
A receiver who got off to a hot start last season and is capable of helping if healthy is De’Vion Warren who returns for his extra senior season the NCAA allowed due to COVID. Warren caught 15 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns in seven games last fall. His 18.5 yards per reception was third behind running back T.J. Hammonds (21.0) and Woods (19.3). By comparison, Burks averaged 16.1 yards per reception.
Tyson Morris is another senior playing an extra season. Last fall, Morris caught seven passes for 67 yards and one touchdown. Prior to last season, Morris, a former walk-on, had caught 17 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
Former Sooner Jaquayln Crawford showed flashes of being able to contribute in the one scrimmage and spring game. He was injured and didn’t participate in the first scrimmage. On Saturday, Crawford caught three passes for 23 yards with a long of 14.
Redshirt sophomore walk-on receiver John David White led all receivers on Saturday with five catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. What White did Saturday wasn’t a fluke. He turned down some offers to attend Arkansas and brings to the team exactly what Drew Morgan from Greenwood did. White will make an impact this fall. White proved at Pulaski Academy he had plenty of talent. If not for strong family ties to Arkansas who knows if the Hogs could have landed him without a scholarship.
Kendall Catalon and Darin Turner are other scholarship wide receivers who have been in the progam for awhile. Catalon caught a pass for six yards on Saturday while Turner had one go for 11 yards. Harper Cole, Beau Cason and Chris Harris are some walk-on receivers in addition to White.
The Razorbacks signed 3-4 wide receivers in the Class of 2021. Ketron Jackson and Jaedon Wilson both enrolled early as did Raheim “Rocket” Sanders. Arkansas will also welcome the speedy Bryce Stephens to the campus this summer.
Jackson is still not a 100-percent due to a knee injury he suffered in high school. Jackson caught one pass for 16 yards on Saturday. Wilson had an impressive 38-yard grab in the game. Both are capable of helping immediately as is Stephens. The question with Sanders is does Arkansas leave him at running back now or move him to receiver. Dominique Johnson and Donte Buckner both stepped up at running back on Saturday.
Arkansas also has Trelon Smith, Josh Oglesby, Javion Hunt and Hammonds as scholarship running backs. In addition, one of the prizes of the last recruiting class is Tulsa (Okla.) Union’s AJ Green who is slated to report this summer. The Hogs already have two running backs committed for the Class of 2022 as well. So the coaches will have to decide if they need Sanders more at running back or receiver. He is talented and capable of helping at both spots.
Replacing Woods won’t be easy, but it’s a task now that Sam Pittman and the staff will have to undertake. How successful they are in doing that may help determine what kind of record the Hogs have in 2021.