FAYETTEVILLE — The tight end position at Arkansas will have a lot of new faces and some returning ones can expect bigger roles in 2023.
Morgan Turner was hired from Stanford to replace Dowell Loggains who took the offensive coordinator position at South Carolina. Turner has developed several tight ends who are now or have played in the NFL.
Gone at tight end is starter Trey Knox who played in 12 games. Knox caught 26 passes for 296 yards and five touchdowns. Also gone is Hudson Henry who was second among the tight ends with four catches for 27 yards.
Nathan Bax returns after catching three passes for 16 yards in 11 games. Tyrus Washington is a redshirt freshman who caught his first collegiate pass in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl for a 17-yard touchdown against Kansas. Bax is a super senior who came to Arkansas originally as a preferred walk-on transfer from Illinois State.
Arkansas signed two outstanding four-star tight ends in the Class of 2023. Bixby (Okla.) High School’s Luke Hasz is enrolled and going through spring drills while Ashdown’s Shamar Easter will arrive in late May or early June. Sam Pittman talked about the tight end position on Tuesday.
“I think Bax has stepped up,” Pittman said. “Bax is moving better. Tyrus Washington has had a really good off-season, working his tail off, working extremely hard. The two Hasz brothers, and I know Dylan’s not a tight end, but Luke is, are two of the hardest working kids you’ll ever see. As a matter of fact I called their mama last night to tell them that because I mean they are hard working, no-nonsense kids. So I think Luke will help us … you asked specifically about tight ends — I think Dylan will too, but you asked about tight ends. That would probably be those five guys right now. Obviously waiting on Shamar Easter to get here in late May, early June.”
Is Bax, Washington, Hasz and Easter enough tight ends or is there still a ned in the transfer portal with one of the eight remaining scholarships?
“Yeah, I mean we can be in 12, we can be in 13, things we never even dreamt about over the last three years,” Pittman said. “The tight end recruiting, which we feel like we’ve done a really good job this year in the two that we signed. But is there a place for a portal guy? I don’t know. I really like who’s in there, but at the same time I think we’ve got to make sure by when the portal opens back up that we’re ready to go with.
“Luke would be the guy that is the question mark because we know what Tyrus is going to be able to do and what Bax is going to be able to do. And if we feel like we’ve got enough tight ends to function, then we would stay out of the portal. If not, just numbers alone we would go in and see if we could find somebody.”
A couple other walk-on tight ends on the spring roster are redshirt freshman Hunter Talley and redshirt junior Zach Lee. Talley is from Siloam Springs while Lee from Bentonville.
Dan Enos used the tight end much more in his offense during his three years at Arkansas than Kendal Briles did in his three. That factor should help tight end recruiting going forward when combined with Turner’s track record of developing tight ends and putting them in the NFL.
Arkansas’ first spring practice will be Thursday afternoon.