FAYETTEVILLE — Junior wide receiver Treylon Burks opted out of the Outback Bowl and will enter the 2022 NFL Draft.

Burks was a huge part of what Arkansas did on offense. Burks led the team with 66 receptions for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also rushed 14 times for 112 yards and a touchdown. The only thing Burks tried that wasn’t successful was passing where he was 0-2. Sam Pittman was asked since he isn’t playing in the bowl game does the offense change some?

“He’s so valuable to us,” Pittman said. “I mean, so valuable. He’s our go-to guy, you know? Any time that we got total or zero, no safeties in the back end, everybody in the building knew we were going to go to him, including the guy that was guarding him. So, yeah I think some of that is maybe gonna change what we do. I anticipate a heavy box from Penn State. They’re always playing about six and a half in there. If you have six blockers, there’s about six and a safety halfway in and halfway out. I anticipate a full seven man box against them, probably a man-to-man free type situation even though they’re a zone blitz team. I would think they’d try to outnumber us in the box and try to stuff our run game.”

Since sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson is capable of running and passing does he possibly run a little more in this game than usual since there’s no game the following week?

“I think he’s going to run if we need him to win the game,” Pittman said. “Obviously we went into Ole Miss thinking that would be the way for us to win the game, and I’m not for sure that – with us using him that much, it’s part of it, we wanted to win – that it didn’t affect him a little bit against Auburn, being beat up and those things. But we don’t play anybody, as you said, after this game. We’re going out there to do the best we can and use our personnel the best we can to win.”

As far as the other wide receivers, Tyson Morris caught 21 for 305 yards and two touchdowns. Warren Thompson had 18 catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns. De’Vion Warren added 13 catches for 219 yards. Ketron Jackson caught five passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. Jaquayln Crawford had three receptions for 27 yards and John David White caught one pass for 19 yards.

“We’ve moved De’Vion to slot along with Bryce Stephens and of course JaQuayln Crawford,” Pittman said. “We have Warren Thompson who has been playing a lot of ball. He moved up in that spot. Certainly Ketron Jackson is a guy that’s going to have to play a lot of ball, and Tyson Morris is going to have to pick up a little for Burks not being there. We’ve had very shortened practices with the veterans so far. The first two non-contact, non-padded practices. We’ll put on shells today. Practice won’t be lengthy. We’ve got 13 left. Probably about an hour and 20, hour and 25 minutes. We’ll do inside run and force and 7-on-7. All of it today.”

Burks left Arkansas as one of the all-time greats at not just wide receiver but any position. The former Warren standout made a strong impression on Pittman.

“He’s a great kid,” Pittman said. “Great character. Unbelievable one-on-one guy. When he’s one on one, just throw it to him and he’ll be able to come down with it if it’s anywhere close to him. Matured this year I thought as a competitor. Competed very, very well. Very hard. He’s got a bright, bright future in the game and a bright future outside of the game. I think the whole state of Arkansas is proud of what he did. I certainly am. We’re very thankful that he was here for three years.”

Pittman was asked about the conversations between him and Burks leading up to the decision not to play in the bowl game and bypass his senior season.

“I think those conversations you’d have to ask Burks about,” Pittman said. “But I’ll say this, but when he made his decision I supported it and, not that he needed it, but I supported him. And the first thing that goes along with that is you find out where he is projected in the draft. You start talking that at first. Because he had two decisions. One, whether I’m going to come back for my senior year and the other one was whether I’m going to play in the bowl or not. And you know there’s different options you can do nowadays with insurance and things of that nature. We certainly talked to him about all those things. And then at the end of things he visited with his family and he made a decision and we are 100% behind him and support him in that decision. But we obviosuly had several different conversations about it.”

The current draft projections for Burks are mid-to-late first round to early second round. But Pittman said when Burks gets to the NFL Combine his stock will move upward.

“He’ll raise it,” Pittman said. “Because they’re going to meet him. And as soon as they meet him, he’ll raise it. He’s a phenomenal kid. It’s hard for me to be disappointed in a man that leaves after three years and doesn’t play in a bowl and those things, when all the things that he’s done for the University and for the football team and for me personally. He’s just a phenomenal guy, and I think he’ll run faster  than what maybe, I hope, and I think he will, than maybe what the scouts think he can.”

Arkansas is also expected to add four talented wide receivers in the Class of 2022.