By Otis Kirk
Arkansas’ tight ends have impressed both Chad Morris and senior quarterback Ben Hicks this spring.
Among the ones getting praise was junior walk-on Blake Kern who is from Lamar High School. Kern was among the tight ends Morris talked about following Tuesday’s practice.
“If I am not mistaken I think we targeted the tight end more than any team in the country this past year,” Morris said. “The role that they have on this football team it allows us to play fast and allows them to be part of the running game and passing game. I think we’ve continued to challenge these guys. It’s good to see Grayson Gunter back out there. He has the toe injury and still isn’t full speed. He, much like Mike Woods, needed the spring. His three practices we’ve had him he’s doing really well. Hopefully we can get him back and finish this thing up.
“Blake Kern, a walk on, has continued to impress us as a true on the line tight end blocking for us. He’s very physical. Been very impressed with Blake.”
Cheyenne O’Grady and Chase Harrell also have caught Morris’ eye this spring. He also is anxious to get Hudson Henry in school this summer.
“CJ we know what he’s capable of doing,” Morris said. “CJ, much like Sosa, challenge is consistency. You come in here and tell me you All-SEC type football player. But can you practice like it, can you consistently day in and day out prepare yourself to be that? Because this position on this football team will allow that to happen if you prepare yourself for that.
“I expect Hudson to come in here and contribute quickly. I do think we’ve got a good mix. I really like the room. Moving Chase (Harrell) to tight end, it’s amazing sometimes when guys move positions and to see the success he has had this spring. He’s had as good spring as anybody as well. I know coach (Barry) Lunney is excited about Chase. He has gained some weight, looks good and runs good routes. I tell him all the time when I see him, ‘you look like you are at home now.’ Again I think we are on par, but I expect Hudson to come in and contribute.”
Hicks was asked about the tight ends and what he has seen from them so far in eight practices?
“They’re extremely, extremely talented,” Hicks said. “I think all of them have their own kind of set of skills. It’s different. At SMU we had a lot of really good blocking tight ends. Here, I think these guys are really good receiving tight ends. I just think that brings another element to the passing game. I think the helps us out a lot. Then having multiple ones that can do it is huge.
“I think when you can give CJ a blow and Grayson can go in or vice versa, then you can get Chase in there now. I think Chase moving to tight end has been huge for his growth. I think all of them are doing a really good job. Kern. I’m excited about it. I think it’s a good thing to have. I enjoy working with them.”
So the tight end at Arkansas is different than what you had at SMU?
“It is different,” Hicks said. “I don’t mean to say that the guys at SMU weren’t receiving tight ends. I think their skill set at SMU was blocking tight ends and now it’s just flipped I think. Having the guys that can play, pretty much playing receiver is huge. Because they’re big bodies. They can use their body to get open. It’s been a great asset for me. I think it’s helped me out a lot. Hudson is a great player obviously. Big-time recruit from a great family, a great football family. I know we’re excited to add another great tight end to the room.”