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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas freshman wide receiver Shamar Nash, shown during spring practice in March, is from Memphis and spent his senior season at IMG Academy in Florida. He was one of four 4-star rated receivers signed by the Razorbacks for this season. - Photo by Andy Shupe

FAYETTEVILLE -- Shamar Nash has already made two major transitions in his young football-playing life.

The 6-3 receiver left his home in south Memphis to play his senior year of high school at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in 2018, then he enrolled in January at the University of Arkansas to prepare for his freshman season this fall.

Nash has a go-to adjective -- "beautiful" -- to describe his past two sets of surroundings.

His time at IMG Academy, which included high school teammate and fellow Arkansas signee Eric Gregory, was "actually a beautiful experience. I viewed it as a great opportunity more than anything," Nash said. "I learned from a lot of people, a lot of different coaches that have been a lot of places."

Nash's spring with the Razorbacks?

"Beautiful," he said. "I learned from a lot of people. I learned from the guys in front of me, the guys who have been here already. I learned from the coaches. They took their time with me and taught me things I probably wouldn't have been able to catch all at once coming in June. So, it was beautiful man."

Razorbacks fans will learn how beautiful it can be when Nash can get past defenders to open up deeper quadrants of the field, an area the Hogs struggled with in the first year under Coach Chad Morris and coordinator Joe Craddock.

Nash became one of the earlier commitments to what became the only class in the country with four 4-star receivers, joining Warren's Treylon Burks, Trey Knox and T.Q. Jackson. He did not have massive stats in eight games with the run-heavy offensive scheme at IMG Academy, but his speed had recruiters swarming.

"He can take the top off," Knox said of his buddy Nash, who he teamed with on the Tennessee Select 7-on-7 team in the ninth and 10th grades. "He's got speed down the field, and he's got good hands. Definitely his speed is his best attribute."

Said Arkansas quarterback Ben Hicks, "Shamar's got a lot of speed. Same thing [with Knox] he's just got to continue to try to learn the offense and be better every single day. I think both of them are going to be really good players this year and in the future."

Nash, playing behind Deon Stewart with Jordan Jones at the "2" position, was not as productive as Knox, a "9" man, during the 15 practices of spring ball as he worked on understanding and executing the offensive schemes.

"Probably the term I could use with him is, 'Rome wasn't built in a day,' because he came in and the installs were happening really fast for him, which caused him to think, which caused him to play slower," Morris said of Nash.

"We've talked about that. I think he got better. His last three or four practices he was starting to figure out spring. But a guy that's very conscientious and wants to please. He's gonna be a really good football player. He needs to have a great summer and totally transform his body. That's where he is. I'm excited about him."

Nash said grasping the playbook is a challenge.

"Just to be up to speed as far as where the coaches want you to be at the moment, that's a lot," he said. "I feel as of right now I'm up to speed from the spring. I definitely know as much as I was going to know coming out of the spring, but I have a lot to learn."

Nash said he's remained about 200 pounds but reapportioned his body since enrolling in January.

"I had 14 percent body fat coming from IMG to here," he said. "My first two months I dropped 3 percent body fat. The more body fat I drop, the better I'll be."

Nash said his aim is to enter fall camp with 8 percent body fat.

Nash was committed to Missouri before making a switch to the Razorbacks following an on-campus visit where he bonded even more with receivers coach Justin Stepp.

"Man, I just felt the relationship I had built with coach Stepp and the staff was a lot stronger than the relationships I had at Missouri," Nash said. "And it was nothing towards Missouri. There's some great guys over there and great people. I just felt like the relationship I had here and the people I had met, I felt they were going to impact my future more."

Nash at a glance

Class Freshman

Position Wide receiver

Height/weight 6-3, 200 pounds

Age 18 (born Nov. 21, 2000)

Hometown Memphis

High Schools Memphis Central and IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Noteworthy Rated a 4-star prospect by Rivals and 247 Sports; No. 41 wide receiver in the nation and No. 42 overall in Florida by Rivals. ... Transferred to IMG Academy for senior season and posted 9 catches for 123 yards and a TD in 8 games and averaged 13.7 yards per catch. ... Teammate of Arkansas freshman DE Eric Gregory at Memphis Central and IMG. ... Selected Arkansas over scholarship offers from Auburn, Florida, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee and others.

Nash said the Razorbacks' struggles during a 2-10 debut under Morris played no role in his decision to play for the Hogs.

"Honestly, that matters none to the guys that's been here and to the guys coming in," he said. "All that we worried about as a group, as a collective, is just getting better. I feel like being there and being part of the team in the spring and meeting some of the guys that were there before -- we lost a lot of guys and we're going to gain a lot of guys -- I feel we have the same common goals. I truly believe that, and I've seen a magnificent difference. It's huge."

Nash stayed at the "2" spot in spring, but there's a chance he could expand as the months go by.

"I envision him playing probably all three spots," Stepp said of Nash prior to the spring. "A majority to the field, then a slot guy to the field, but not being afraid to put him into the boundary as well. He's got a unique skillset. That's the thing I'm most excited about in our room, is there's a lot of guys that can play a bunch of different spots."

Nash said Stepp, "doesn't put too much pressure on me to know everything, but he definitely nudges me to know as much as I can in case I have to hop in at another position. Most definitely, once I get more comfortable with the playbook I'll definitely branch out."

Nash has shown his sense of humor on Twitter, posting in the spring that he couldn't make it to graduation at IMG and that the school could just send him his valedictorian honors.

"No man, that was a joke. I wasn't even close to valedictorian," Nash said. "But I did pretty good. I did really well. I got a message from one of my academic assistants, and they told me I got nominated for an award for my graduating class."

Nash would like to see the Razorbacks advance toward yearly postseason awards during his career.

"What I want to get done before I got out of here, I want to make it to a bowl game every year that I'm here," he said. "That's a big change going off what last season looked like. I want to be able to experience a bowl game every year. I'm shooting for SEC. After we get the class after us, I feel like they're going to set the groundwork."

Photo by Andy Shupe
Receiver Shamar Nash (right) has set some lofty goals for his time at the University of Arkansas. “I want to make it to a bowl game every year that I’m here,” Nash said. “That’s a big change going off what last season looked like. I want to be able to experience a bowl game every year.”

Sports on 07/12/2019

Print Headline: Beautiful ride so far: Early enrollee shows Hogs he can catch on

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