FOUR DOWNS – ARKANSAS OFF WEEK NOTES
1. Gragg Back
Arkansas got one of its key offensive players back on the practice field Tuesday afternoon. Tight end Chris Gragg — who has missed the past three games because of a bone bruise on his knee — participated in the off week workout.
Quarterback Tyler Wilson said the senior “looked really good” in his return.
“He was running his routes crisp. He was old Chris again,” Wilson said. “We can run some plays that we have kind of neglected a little bit since he’s been out. He looked good. We’re glad to have him back out there.”
Gragg has 19 catches for 234 yards with two touchdowns in a little more than three games this season. He still ranks second on the team in catches despite leaving the field during the first quarter of the 35-26 loss to Rutgers on Sept. 22.
Wilson, Gragg and leading receiver Cobi Hamilton have played together for just four quarters this season because of the injuries. So Wilson said Gragg’s return would be a lift for the offense as it prepares for the final five-game stretch.
“It gives you a guy playing tight end and a guy on the outside you can line up on the same side and really attack people,” Wilson said. “That’s big. It obviously gives you another weapon on the field as a quarterback to throw to. So it’s big.”
But offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said Wilson and the offense have improved even with Gragg sidelined the past few weeks.
The senior threw for 372 yards and tied the school record with 5 touchdown passes in the Kentucky win, spreading the ball to 10 different receivers.
Petrino said he was impressed that Wilson’s five touchdown passes went to four different receivers and the list didn’t include Hamilton.
“He’s done it with whoever is out there,” Petrino said of Wilson. “We’ve never ever worried about it. We don’t make excuses. But it’d be great to have all your bullets, no question. That’d be wonderful.”
2. No Self-Inflicted Wounds
Arkansas accomplished something for the first time this season in the 49-7 win against Kentucky. The Razorbacks didn’t commit a turnover.
Petrino said curbing the sloppiness is a big reason for Arkansas’ success. The Razorbacks had turned the ball over 17 times through five games.
“We went down the field and had more yards in some of them, but we didn’t turn the ball over,” Petrino said. “We didn’t have mental errors at the end of those long drives in the critical zone. That’s what was great to see. We executed the way you should, had no turnovers the other night, didn’t’ have missed assignments. Everyone did what they’re supposed to do. When you do that, you score a lot of points.”
3. Wheel Route Success
Why did Arkansas have so much success with the wheel route in the 49-7 win against Kentucky last Saturday. Petrino explained after Tuesday’s practice.
“You saw by formation how you could get a certain matchup,” Petrino said. “If you set the tight end into the boundary and motion a guy out they kind of flip flop their (strongside) linebacker and their defensive end.
“We actually had a defensive end on a running back on a wheel. On one play, on the other play we had a linebacker on him. But it was just a way to get matchups.”
Running back Jonathan Williams turned the wheel routes into two touchdowns in the win. He caught a pass on Arkansas’ first play from scrimmage and turned it into a 74-yard score. The second touchdown covered 77 yards.
4. Freshen Up
Arkansas’ bye week comes after seven games, giving the Hogs a chance to prepare for the final stretch. Arkansas’ final five games include dates against three ranked teams – South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU — who are a combined 18-2.
So Hamilton believes the break comes at a good time as Arkansas prepares for the final stretch, which begins with home games against Ole Miss and Tulsa.
“It fits good,” Hamilton said. “It’s the middle of the season and everybody’s kind of halfway beat up. So it’s good to freshen our legs up.
“We’re coming off two good wins, so like I said it’s good to go back over the little things and correct those and make the next run even better.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau