FAYETTEVILLE (AP) — Greg Childs, Jarius Wright and Joe Adams made a commitment to each other in high school before they signed with Arkansas.
They were some of the most accomplished receivers in the state’s history and had plenty of opportunities to play college football somewhere else. Instead, they stayed home to form the core of Bobby Petrino’s first recruiting class.
Childs and Wright played on the same high school team together in Warren, Ark. They knew early on in the recruiting process that they would play for the Razorbacks, but Adams was a different story.
Adams, who played in high school in Little Rock, Ark., originally committed verbally to Southern California. After plenty of hometown pressure from Wright among others, Adams eventually decided to sign with Arkansas after Petrino was hired.
"Before we all decided to come, we talked to each other and said, ‘Instead of leaving and making another state proud, let’s go to Arkansas and bring our own state up,’" Wright said. "We felt like then we were some of the best receivers in the country as high school kids and felt like we could make a difference, so we decided to come here."
It’s a group that struggled to a 5-7 record their first season before leading Arkansas to its first BCS bowl game last season in their third. Expectations are even higher this season for the Razorbacks and their talented receiving corps.
Four Arkansas receivers have been named to the preseason Biletnikoff Award watch list, led by the senior group of Childs, Wright and Adams. Add junior Cobi Hamilton and the Razorbacks are among the best in the Southeastern Conference and perhaps nationally.
The quartet combined for 170 catches and 2,882 yards receiving last season, and that’s despite Childs missing the last five games of the season with a knee injury.
Childs, Adams and Wright rank 10th-12th on the school’s career receptions list with 112, 110 and 102 catches, respectively. All three enter the season with realistic chances to overtake Anthony Eubanks’ record of 153 career receptions.
"They are a good group of receivers," Petrino said. "They’ve shown it for three years now and they are very productive. It’s a good combination."
Of course, Arkansas had quarterback Ryan Mallett throwing passes a year ago and the signal-caller this season will be either junior Tyler Wilson or sophomore Brandon Mitchell. But the receivers offer the quarterback a host of skills.
Childs is the most physical of the group, using his 6-foot-3, 217-pound frame to outwork defensive backs, while Wright’s speed has led to a 17.8 yards-per-catch average in three seasons.
Adams’ strength is his explosiveness after the catch and his ability to work in traffic, and Petrino praised the group for their ability to work together and share the receptions. However, the coach jokingly stopped just short of calling them completely selfless.
"I’ve never met a receiver yet that’s unselfish," Petrino said. "The deal with playing receiver is you always want the ball, you’re always open. ... They’re always going to want the ball, every play. But the key is to have a great attitude when your teammate and friend is having the big game."
As if to prove Petrino’s point, Childs’ face lit up with excitement when asked about helping his fellow receivers score after a catch.
"We understand that if whoever catches the ball, we are all running, absolutely running, to make a block and saying, ‘Let’s go,’ Childs said. "That’s our boy, and there’s no way we’re going to let someone take a cheap shot at him because we’re not downfield making a block for him."
Hamilton signed with Arkansas despite the presence of Childs, Wright and Adams already on campus. He did so for the competition and quickly worked his way into the rotation, catching 32 passes for 630 yards last season.
Hamilton’s breakout performance was a 164-yard game against LSU late last season after Childs’ injury, and he has no doubt such games are in the future for the entire group of receivers.
"We’ve even got guys behind us that are incredible," Hamilton said. "It’s a lot of fun to watch all of us work every day. With the talent we have, I don’t see why we can’t go back to a BCS game or the national championship."