Sorting Through Top 5 Receivers in Life After Burks: Arkansas Football Practice Insights

Ketron Jackson Jr., Arkansas football
photo credit: Nick Wenger

FAYETTEVILLE — Life after Treylon Burks would likely be tough on any program, but Arkansas seems to have enough depth at wide receiver to at least partially fill the void left behind.

During a team segment in Saturday’s practice viewing, the Razorbacks had Warren Thompson and Matt Landers split out wide, with Bryce Stephens in the slot. Only Thompson worked with the first offense in the Razorbacks first practice of fall camp Friday afternoon.

Stephens replaced Oklahoma transfer Jadon Haselwood in the starting group, while Landers — a transfer from Toledo who began his career at Georgia — replaced Ketron Jackson Jr. Neither Haselwood nor Jackson participated in the team segment, but they were both full-go at practice.

It is probably too early to read too much into depth chart movement, as this marked just the second practice of camp, but it is noteworthy that those five receivers have gotten work with the first-team offense because offensive coordinator Kendal Briles has previously said he likes to play five in games, with three starters and two who rotate in.

Last season, the five receivers who played the bulk of the snaps were Burks, Thompson, Jackson and departed super seniors Tyson Morris and De’Vion Warren. Who emerges as the top five receivers will certainly be something worth tracking throughout camp.

Currently on the outside looking in, quarterback-turned-receiver Landon Rogers and Jaquayln Crawford moved into the second group during the team period seen by the media. The third team consisted of the three four-star true freshmen: Isaiah Sategna, Quincey McAdoo and Sam Mbake. The latter of those three actually made a nice grab during the segment.

Here are a handful of other observations from the 20 minutes or so the media was allowed to watch of Saturday’s practice… 

  • During that team segment, sophomore Rocket Sanders was unsurprisingly the first-team running back. In perhaps a bit of a surprise, true freshman Rashod Dubinion was with the 2s and sophomore AJ Green ran with the 3s.
  • In a battle of the second-team offense and second-team defense, Malik Hornsby wasn’t able to do much on the two pass plays called because the defense got pressure. Both times, freshman linebacker Jordan Crook tracked him down — first in the backfield for what could have been a sack and then in the flats for what might back been for little or no gain.
  • Speaking of wide receivers, Isaiah Sategna doesn’t look very big amongst his teammates, but he runs smoothly and showcased solid hands in a routes-on-air segment. As expected, he was getting his reps with the slot receivers.
  • Defensive lineman Dorian Gerald, who initially entered the transfer portal this offseason before choosing to return to Arkansas for his seventh year of college football, is now wearing jersey No. 23. He had previous been in No. 5, but redshirt freshman Cameron Ball took that number while he was in the portal.
  • Scouts with the Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens were spotted at Saturday’s practice.

Arkansas Football Injury Report

Here are a few injury notes on the Razorbacks based on what was observed during media viewing periods and things head coach Sam Pittman says in interviews. Best of Arkansas Sports will update this section throughout camp…

  • After going through drills during Friday’s media viewing period, linebacker Chris Paul Jr. was relegated to watching from the sideline Saturday. It’s unknown what injury he is dealing with.
  • Although he’s “ahead of schedule,” according to Pittman, running back Dominique Johnson is still recovering from offseason knee surgery and will not be able to participate in practice for about a week or so.
  • He was held out of most of spring ball for precautionary reasons, as he’s still dealing with lingering back issues, but right tackle Dalton Wagner has been at practice the first two days of camp.
  • As expected, defensive back Jacorrei Turner has started fall camp in a green non-contact jersey. Pittman told reporters that he is dealing with a shoulder injury that the Razorbacks are being cautious with.
  • For a second straight day, the only other player in green was offensive lineman Marcus Henderson. Pittman revealed after Friday’s practice that he’s dealing with a pectoral injury. It’s “nothing serious,” but he’ll probably be held out of contact drills for at least another week.
  • Wide receiver Jaquayln Crawford is back with the team after suffering a broken leg in a car accident over spring break that required a rod to be placed in his leg. “I thought Crawford did a nice job today, fighting through all of that,” Pittman said Friday. “He’s been cleared, I don’t know that he’s 100%, to be perfectly honest with you.”
  • After missing most of spring ball with an undisclosed injury, offensive lineman Terry Wells is back at practice. He is a redshirt freshman out of Wynne High School who appeared in only one game last season.
  • Quarterback Kade Renfro is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered during Arkansas’ bowl practices last December. He is not expected to be back in action until the first or second game of the season, so he was left off the 110-man camp roster. He’ll be spending his time in the training room going through rehab.
  • In a bit of a surprise, one player who is on the 110-man roster is defensive tackle Taurean Carter, who is currently out with a knee injury that required surgery this summer. Pittman hasn’t said what the exact injury is, but did tell reporters that the staff thought it was important for him to go through meetings and attend practice during camp.
  • Another player missing from fall camp is redshirt freshman Chase Lowery, but it is not due to injury. He was just left off of the 110-man camp roster and will rejoin the team when classes start Aug. 22. Others left off the 110 are walk-ons: kicker Blake Ford, tight end Hunter Talley, long snapper Briggs Magee, wide receiver Kamron Bibby, punter Patrick Foley and defensive linemen Randall Dennis Jr. and Logan Hurst.

Arkansas Football Practice Day 1 Highlights

The Razorbacks actually started fall camp Friday afternoon and opened up the first 20 minutes or so to the media. Pittman and a few players also met with the media afterward. However, Best of Arkansas Sports was on vacation.

Malik Hornsby and Jaedon Wilson connected on a deep ball for the biggest play during the media’s viewing period, with the latter getting behind LaDarrius Bishop in coverage, according to WholeHogSports.

It was a big play for Wilson, who is still trying to make a name for himself as a redshirt freshman who didn’t play at all in 2021.

“I told him that nobody knows who he is…I said ‘Nobody knows who you are, bro,’” Pittman said after the practice. “If you want somebody to know who you are, you’ve got to do what he did at practice today. We’ve challenged him, big-time, because athletically, length and all of those things, he’s got all of that. He has to be more consistent.”

The Razorbacks split time between the outdoor grass practice field and the indoor practice field inside Walker Pavilion, but the efforts to stay cool were made difficult by the heat and humidity. The team dealt with quite a few cramps — more than Pittman had anticipated.

He added that there was a lull midway through practice, but they eventually fought through it. There were also a couple of mental lapses in the two-minute drill, such as a quarterback forgetting the down and a wide receiver not getting out of bounds, but Pittman wasn’t too alarmed by the mistakes because it was just the first day and they were used as a learning experience.

Another big play in the first practice came after media was asked to leave practice and showcased the other end of the decision-making spectrum.

In a battle between the first-team offense and first-team defense during the aforementioned two-minute drill, cornerback Hudson Clark jumped in front of a pass by KJ Jefferson for a “game-clinching” interception.

“He intercepted it and understood to get on the ground,” Pittman said. “There’s no reason to do anything with it, the game is over at that point. Thought he made a great decision there.”

Malik Hornsby’s Usage

One of the biggest storylines to follow throughout camp is just how Arkansas plans to use backup quarterback Malik Hornsby this year.

While he threw an impressive deep ball to Wilson and took all of the second-team reps at quarterback, Pittman said he also got about 15-20 snaps with the first-team offense at wide receiver during Friday’s practice. That was the plan, but could evolve as the season inches closer.

“We know we’re straining him because he got every snap of second team quarterback,” Pittman said. “However, we can always pull back on him once we feel how much we’re going to play him out there. He’s going to play somewhere, so those numbers at wide receiver will probably increase. They didn’t need to today because it was the first day, but they’ll probably increase.”

None of Hornsby’s wide receiver snaps came during the media viewing period, so it’s unknown if/how much of an increase in reps he had Saturday. [See an update on Malik Hornsby here]

Check out what RB coach Jimmy Smith + running backs Rocket Sanders and AJ Green had to say after Saturday’s practice:

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More on Malik Hornsby in fall camp:

More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…

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