FAYETTEVILLE Resurrecting their only returning reliable wide receiver ranks among the Arkansas Razorbacks’ obvious objectives from last week’s open date week into their SEC opener.
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 1-1, and the Texas A&M Aggies, 2-1, each open their SEC season in Saturday’s 11 a.m. ESPN-televised SEC West game at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The Razorbacks last played Sept. 9, losing 28-7 to TCU with their only returning wide receiver of 2016 consequence rusty and inept.
Senior Jared Cornelius comprises 32 of the 35 catches for 2016 among the Razorbacks wide receivers returning from last season.
Between a pulled hamstring during last spring’s practices and a back injury removing him for nearly all the preseason practices, Cornelius has practiced sparingly since the 2016 season ended.
He made a seven-plays cameo and caught a 6-yard pass during Arkansas’ 49-7 Aug. 31 season opening rout of Florida A&M then started against TCU.
The Cornelius dropping quarterback Austin Allen’s game-opening pass and finishing with one catch for 2 yards bore no resemblance to the Cornelius catching 32 passes for 515 yards and 4 touchdowns last year or the Cornelius lettering in 2014 and 2015.
“He did some uncharacteristic things,” Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said last week. “It goes again to show you no matter how much you play, you need to practice. He’s very intent on doing that.”
Cornelius has always been intent on doing that, but now, Bielema said, he’s physically up to doing that.
“I think he’s finally gotten to that 100 percent health,” Bielema said. “I’m very excited because he’s our lead dog. If he can do that, he’s gonna make us better.”
The best way to get Cornelius better is “more reps,” Bielema asserts.
So Bielema said the practice rotation for most receivers reps narrowed last week just to Cornelius, third-year sophomore Deon Stewart, junior college transfer Jonathan Nance, and redshirt freshman speedster Jordan Jones.
After last Thursday’s practice, Allen said Cornelius’ extra work works well.
“Jared’s looking great, the best since his back injury,” Allen said. “It was his first week practicing last week [the Sept. 9 game week] so of course there was going to be a little rust. He’s caught everything this week and has run great routes, and I just have all the trust in the world in him.”
Trust means the world to Allen. Last year’s SEC passing leader, Allen these two games has been criticized by his coaches and himself for holding the ball too long.
But if you have all novice receivers and they all appear covered, who wouldn’t hesitate to throw it?
“I’ve got to trust in them that they are going to get open and let it rip,” Allen said. “They know that and I know that.”
They also know it’s easier to gain trust in the others once you first reconnect with the one you trust.
Print Headline: Resurrecting reliable receiver ranks high for Hogs