FAYETTEVILLE — After some official preseason practices that start Friday, Arkansas offensive coordinator Joe Craddock would like to apply a “consistent” adjective to the Arkansas Razorbacks receivers he seldom applied last spring.
“Showed some flashes but he’s got to be more consistent.”
“We didn’t get what we wanted out of him in the spring.”
“Did some really good things at times but he’s got to be more consistent.”
“It’s just about consistency and mastering his craft.”
Those were Craddock’s comments last May he individually applied to various Razorbacks receivers, summarizing their performances after the allotted 15 spring practices.
Only two consistently rose above the inconsistent category.
One you would expect. Jared Cornelius, returning as a fifth-year senior with the most career catches among this season’s roster, impressed coach Chad Morris and Craddock last spring even while unable to go all out.
Shreveport Evangel alum Cornelius returns because a season-ending torn Achilles tendon three games into season allowed him a medical hardship actively to return in 2018 though he was on a precautionary limited practice no full contact status last spring.
Still, Cornelius’ versatility as a punt returner (official long returns of 43 and 35 yards-plus would have been touchdowns called back by penalties) and receiver (79 career catches for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns) with running back abilities (25 carries on reverses for 188 yards and three touchdowns) was obvious.
So was his leadership in the locker room and academically having already completed his sports management degree in December.
“When he did get out there one-on-one, he showed what he could do,” Craddock said. “Those one-on-ones, he showed some things pretty good. I know he’s got the voice of the room. He just has got to keep working after the surgery from that injury.”
The other consistently praised for consistency surprised the new staff as a walk-on.
Tyson Morris, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Fayetteville High grad of former Nolan Richardson era Razorbacks basketball forward Isaiah “Butch” Morris, emerged from redshirt freshman scout team obscurity last fall statistically to excel in every spring scrimmage.
Tyson Morris, in the first spring scrimmage, caught 2 passes, one for a touchdown for 60 yards.
In the next scrimmage, Morris recorded two catches for 19 yards and finished in the Red-White spring game sleet at Little Rock catching four passes for 58 yards.
“Tyson had a great spring,” Craddock surmised. “A walk-on kid but he really bought in early on and did some really good things and learned the offense and knows what to do. He was running with the twos a lot of times.”
If the others can more consistently play to their spring peaks, Craddock believes they will have opportunities opened by the running game he foresees from running backs Devwah Whaley, Chase Hayden, T.J Hammonds, Maleek Williams and incoming junior college transfer Rakeem Boyd.
“With our running game, receivers are going to get some one-on-one opportunities down the field,” Craddock said. “If we can get that done he could have some big plays.”
While preseason practice starts Friday, establishing a recruiting “footprint” never stops.
Preceding Arkansas coach Bret Bielema often recruited in Florida.
At SEC Media Days in Atlanta, Morris said his offensive coordinator past at Clemson in Clemson, South Carolina “developed relationships throughout the Southeast” but that’s not the “footprint” that Arkansas can rely upon.
“You have to look at where our footprint has to be,” Morris said. “You look at the storied program of Arkansas (glory years under Frank Broyles, Lou Holtz and Ken Hatfield) when they won, you won with Arkansas kids. On an average year in the last 10 years, three to four to five (Arkansas) kids come out that are SEC caliber players. You have to get those kids first. Then, you dip into the Memphis and Tulsa areas as part of the footprint, but most important you have to get a roster with Texas kids on it. My relationships throughout that state (Morris was a Texas high school coach for 16 years and the head coach at Southern Methodist University in Dallas from 2015-2017) in Dallas and Houston and East Texas will be a big priority for us. And, Louisiana with the relationships that (defensive coaches) John Chavis, Ron Cooper and Steve Caldwell have, that’s where the footprint has to be.”
Signing outside the footprint seems Morris’ rare exception.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t get out of it on occasion” Morris said. “But there better be a relationship (with a family member or high school coach) early on. You can’t lose focus on what that footprint is.”