For Arkansas, the offense faces less question marks than the defense in 2017, but there still are some unknowns.
One of them is the tight end position.
Despite a superb recent run of producing top tight ends, the Razorbacks have options but not surefire answer(s) yet at the position following the departure of Jeremy Sprinkle from last season’s team.
Cheyenne O’Grady, Will Gragg, Austin Cantrell, Jack Kraus and Jeremy Patton will all try and compete for a starting role that is up for grabs this season unlike in years past.
And considering how pivotal of a role tight end plays in the offense – perhaps more so than most other college offenses – the way it turns out is sure to make an impact on how the season fares for the Razorbacks.
With the current group, there isn’t a lot of game experience to be found. O’Grady, Gragg and Cantrell were all a part of Arkansas’ coveted 2015 tight end signing class but have done little since. All three redshirted that first season, then saw mostly minimal (or no) action last fall.
Kraus has played in a combined 22 games the past two seasons, but mostly on special teams and as a blocking tight end.
Patton won’t enroll with the Razorbacks until this summer, but he was the nation’s top-ranked junior college tight end in the 2017 class and probably can be expected to compete for playing time immediately.
As things stand now, Cantrell seems like the most likely bet after making 13 catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns with five starts last season. O’Grady had three catches for 63 yards and one touchdown, including two catches for 40 yards and the touchdown in the team’s Belk Bowl loss against Virginia Tech.
And Gragg may actually be the most talented of the bunch despite not playing at all last season. Coach Bret Bielema himself said he’s “always been bigger and stronger than the others,” and that more focus and preparation this offseason have improved his stock.
So who does Arkansas pick as their go-to tight end?
Bielema has an outstanding track record of producing quality talent at the position, with Sprinkle and Hunter Henry – a Mackey Award winner – before him among the examples. Overall, the Razorbacks have had a tight end selected in four of the past six drafts – including each of the past two – and Sprinkle most likely will add to that run.
With at least that much known, it looks like Arkansas will be in line to have a good one leading the way.
(You can follow Tye Richardson on Twitter @TyeSportsRadio)
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