FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Junior wide receiver De’Vion Warren is hoping to have a breakout season in 2019.
As a sophomore last fall, Warren had three receptions for 14 yards and a touchdown. He was 0-1 passing and had two rushes. It was at kickoff return where Warren excelled. He had 14 kickoff returns for 399 yards with a long of 78.
Warren, 5-10, 188, talked about the feeling in the wide receiver room this season.
“Yes we have a sense of urgency,” Warren said. “You get to a point where you have something to prove and people underestimate you as one of the least receiving corps in the SEC. You have to take practice every day like one rep at a time. You have to give it your best.”
The receivers will have a new quarterback throwing to them this fall. Senior Ben Hicks, junior Nick Starkel, redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones and true freshman KJ Jefferson along with junior walk-on Jack Lindsey are competing for the job. Hicks (SMU) and Starkel (Texas A&M) are both grad transfers and likely the top two competing for the starting spot right now.
“That battle is going good,” Warren said of the quarterbacks. “It’s interesting to see two people battle. Like we battle in the receiving room, but to see it from a different position, like that is amazing. Like you see them battle, but you also see them critique each other, which is a good thing. Which means they know how to battle but they also know how to help each other out.”
Warren is confident the quarterbacks will have some talented wide receivers to throw to this fall.
“We have come a long way from last year,” Warren said. “From the first day coming, we’ve progressed each day. Coach (Justin) Stepp is making sure we build our fundamentals, and we as older guys in the room, Me, Deon (Stewart), Mike (Woods), Koilan (Jackson), we have the young guys know what they’re doing so they don’t go out there lost. It’s really good to see them progress then to see us step up and have to progress.”
Do you have any personal goals for this season?
“It’s not about me this season,” Warren said. “It’s about the team. We want the team to be great not just me. Yes, I have self goals, but I put the goals aside for the team first.”
Arkansas’ secondary is young, but seems to have been having a great fall camp. Count Warren among those impressed with the defensive backs.
“The secondary is good, man,” Warren said. “They are holding their own and are becoming better each day. They are out learning, they’re learning how to play concepts now. They are picking up on little tendencies. They’ll come up to us and tell, ‘Hey you got to stop that, I see you moving your foot, so I know where you’re about to go.’ So, those little things help big time.
“Like Jarques (McClellion), if he lines up in front of somebody, if that guy is moving his foot it could mean something, if he’s moving his glove it could mean something. So, the little tendencies that receivers do that we don’t know we do, that’s what they’re picking up on and it’s incredible.”
Warren did get a touchdown on them on Wednesday. He talked about the play where he and Starkel hooked up for a touchdown.
“The play was pretty good and it was well-designed,” Warren said. “I think I had Nick on the field at the time. It was a little bubble screen, blocked the man over, made the catch, made a man miss and just got down the sideline.
“That’s what it is, man, in this league. It’s about making plays after the catch. You’re not always going to get the big launch, big play down the field. You can take the little stuff and take it a long way.”
Warren will continue to return kickoffs and talked about two young players back there as well.
“I plan on being back there as long as coach lets me be back there,” Warren said. “Greg Brooks, maybe a little T.Q. Jackson. Those two.”
In 2017, Warren returned 29 kickoffs for 765 yards and a touchdown with a long of 100 yards. He has proved he can be explosive in the kickoff return aspect. Now Warren and the other receivers are hoping to have a more explosive passing game.
“We can based off the techniques and stuff and the fundamentals,” Warren said. “If we do the fundamentals right then everything will lay itself out, including up front with blocking and receivers running the right route and the quarterbacks making the right decisions. Everything has the ability to be great.”
Arkansas is holding a closed practice today with no media access during or afterward. On Saturday, the Hogs will hold a closed scrimmage and then Chad Morris, the coordinators and selected players will be available beginning at approximately 12:10 p.m.