FAYETTEVILLE — Initially Arkansas coach Chad Morris worked his best returning offensive player on third team to motivate him.

But for now the Razorbacks don't have Cheyenne "C.J." O'Grady period. The first team senior tight end from Fayetteville injured Tuesday is set for arthroscopic knee surgery with the season opener looming Aug. 31 against Portland State.

Tight ends coach Barry Lunney is optimistic that O'Grady can return by that first game week from the customarily minor surgery. Similarly, offensive line coach Dustin Fry is hopeful regarding the arthroscopic knee surgery for first-team senior left guard Austin Capps.

In the meantime, as Lunney said after Thursday's practice: "Life goes on and it's part of football" as the coach prepares a room full of tight ends with roles even with O'Grady on hand and obviously expanded while he's not.

Much of Arkansas' August preseason attention has focused on senior second-year University of Kansas transfer Chase Harrell's transfer from receiver to tight end, and the arrival of heralded freshman Hudson Henry of Pulaski Academy.

However, if the Razorbacks played today, fourth-year junior and two-year letterman Grayson Gunter would be the starting tight end and playing the most.

"Grayson’s had a great camp. The best camp since he’s been here," Lunney said after Thursday's practice. "He’s playing with a lot of confidence and intensity. We're really very pleased with where he’s at right now."

Through no fault of his own, true freshman Henry is behind where he would like to be.

He's not only a rookie but a rookie returning from missing nearly a full week of drills while in concussion protocol.

"He's missed an extended period of time and he's rusty as you would expect," Lunney said. "And throw in the fact he hasn't gone through the phase of knocking off the newness yet. But he's going to be more than fine. You can tell that already early on with his ability."

Presently, Lunney is shaping former receiver Harrell into the blocker the Hogs need at tight end while working his best blocking tight end, junior walk-on Blake Kern, 6-4, 256 of Lamar, into a receiver that can surprise defensive coordinators.

"We don't send him out there with boxing gloves on his hands," Lunney said. "He's more than capable of catching the ball. He's going to be a point of attack blocker and people are going to know that. Because of that he might bring some good playmaking ability to us at kind of sneaky times."

While all are going to excel more at some facets than others, Lunney stressed "being efficient" in run-blocking, pass protection and receiving.

"The more guys we have efficient at all three, the more guys we can play without tipping our hand," Lunney said.

He knows O'Grady, 6-4, 256 with 30 catches for 400 yards last year and on the Mackey Award Watch List, has excelled at all three.

"We fully expect when he comes back, that with him having 12 games left his senior year, it’ll be the best 12 weeks that he can make them," Lunney said.

Junior college transfer offensive lineman Myron Cunningham has drawn praise both at tackle and at guard from Morris and the offensive staff but absorbed some post Tuesday practice criticism from offensive line coach Dustin Fry.

Cunningham has worked successive practices at first-team left tackle while senior Colton Jackson of Conway is held out because of a foot injury.

"Today, I would say he took a little bit of a step back," Fry said. "I hope he hears that. Because he’ll hear it again in the meeting room. But overall, he's doing good. Having to go guard one day and then all of a sudden we had to go right back to tackle, he’s handling it pretty well."

Third-year sophomore Arkansan Kirby Adcock of Nashville has worked first-team left guard with Capps out.

"He's had a solid camp," Fry said. "With Kirby, his thing is pad level. We’ve got to play with lower pads. He understands what to do. He understands the footwork. It’s just pad level now."

Because of turnovers Thursday, running backs coach Jeff Traylor said the defense won the belt awarded after each practice.

Cornerback Montaric "Buster" Brown, praised by Morris throughout the season, posted an impressive pass breakup during the only 20 minutes of practice viewed by media.

Walk-on linebacker Anthony Travis of Fort Smith Northside appeared to have injured a shoulder during Thursday's first 20 minutes.

Special teams coordinator Lunney cites the transfer of former Vanderbilt punter Sam Loy as inspiring incumbent punter Reid Bauer, whose shaky spring after a late season struggle put the punting job up for grabs.

Both punted well Thursday.

"I really like where they're at in their battle right now," Lunney said. "If we went to a game tomorrow we may punt both of them to be honest with you."

The Razorbacks attend today's Kickoff Luncheon at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, and have an entirely closed practice today prepping for Saturday's closed scrimmage.