By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE — Senior Trey Knox could have a very big season for Arkansas now that he will play tight end the entire season.

Knox burst onto the college scene in 2019 as a four-star wide receiver from Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Blackman. He caught 28 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns while starting all 11 games he played. It appeared he was on his way to becoming a star at Arkansas, But then in 2020 he played in 10 games with six starts, but only caught seven passes for 70 yards. In 2021, he started slowly again, but then started emerging and moved to tight end catching 20 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown.

Knox quickly became a favorite of quarterback KJ Jefferson during the 2021 season. Jefferson found Knox often during two-minute offenses in some key SEC wins.

“Relying on Trey, it’s truly just confidence,” Jefferson said. “I know he’s going to be in the right spot at the right time. I know he’s going to run his route. Being able to have chemistry in those crunch situations, knowing where I can turn and get the ball to Trey, and he’s going to be in the right spot.”

Jefferson talked about what he has seen from Knox making the transition from wide receiver to tight end.

“He’s confident,” Jefferson said. “He came in and attacked it once we told him that he was going to be a tight end. Trey comes in with a different skill set at the tight end position. I don’t call him a tight end necessarily. I call him a flex-tight end because we can still put Trey out there at wide receiver and just let him play. That’s his background. So being able to have a guy like that with a receiver background and know what it takes to create separation and get off routes. Then also he creates mismatch problems. Linebackers can cover him, but still, from a receiver’s background, he got off linebackers and run by linebackers.”

Sam Pittman talked about Knox too after the first practice on Friday when he struggled some with the heat.

“I think he’s going to be fine,” Pittman said. “He’s got to get in better shape. I’m sure he’s not used to carrying 245 pounds even though he had a good summer in the strength and conditioning program. It’s like anything. You guys remember, you athletes, it looks like we’ve got a room full of them, when you transitioned from football and went to basketball. You were in shape for football but not necessarily basketball. It’s kind of the same way in your strength program. As long as you simulate position drills and all that stuff, they’re not wearing pads, they’re not wearing spiders, they’re not wearing a helmet. So, I think Trey just has to get used to that a little bit, and I think he will be fine. He ran some really good routes today. Did a nice job blocking.”

Knox acknowledged the weight he has gained, but thinks he is handling it fine and obviously will continue to get better as the camp progresses.

“Right now, I got on the scale this morning actually, 245,” Knox said. “I feel pretty good carrying it. Last season I ended the season around 227. So I’ve put on a lot of weight, but I feel great, I feel amazing. Just ready to go play.”

Spending the spring at tight end and now the preseason instead of having to transition from wide receiver as he did in 2021 definitely has been a pleasant thing for Knox.

“Last year was definitely hard,” Knox said. “Not being able to learn the little nuances of playing the position, of course, because you don’t have enough time to sit and really be coached on details when you’re getting ready for an opponent.

“But going through the spring and the summer, just really learning how to block D-ends, the footwork that you have to do, the hand placement, the striking. Just all the little details that make you so much better than just being raw strength and playing off of athleticism.”

Dowell Loggains coaches the tight ends and is pleased with what he has seen from Knox so far last season and now in the preseason as far as the weight gain.

“When you see him, you can tell,” Loggains said. “When he walks through the door, he looks like what a tight end is supposed to look like. You have to give a lot of credit to Jamil Walker and his staff. He’s as good as any strength coach in America. When you come from pro football to college football, you always hear the stories about how important the strength coach is. You don’t know it until you get here and see how much time they spend with those guys. The strength staff deserves a ton of credit. It’s a huge reason why we win, and those guys have done a great job. And Trey making the right decisions and doing the right stuff.”

Knox has gained 40 pounds in 18 months. Loggains joked around when asked if that is hard to do?

“Yeah, I do it the wrong way,” Loggains said. “So, I can only talk about the bad way I gain, but Trey has found a good way and looks good and moves well. It’s a tribute to the kid’s work ethic and our strength staff and Julie our nutritionist who has done a great job with him. It is a commitment. It’s not just ‘hey, put on weight.’ You have to change your mindset. You go from playing wide receiver where you have to block, but you’re out there on the edge. You’re blocking people that are your size. Compared to now you have to block defensive ends. And now on the second level you’re blocking linebackers. It’s a mindset and that’s where the mental toughness comes in. It’s not for everybody. Not everybody can make this transition, but Trey is a mentally tough kid. He’s physically tough, and it’s allowed him to make the transition.”

Knox talked about how he has gained that much weight and the things he ate.

“Just eating,” Knox said. “Stuffing my face. Eating any and everything. I’ve said it before, literally I was just eating everything. Drinking chocolate milk before bed. Protein shakes. PB and Js. A lot of chicken and steak and potatoes. I love steak and potatoes. But just eating. And also working out, too, and I transformed my body, too. It’s not all bad weight. Like, it’s not bad weight at all. I feel good.”

Loggains also talked about how Knox has done making the move to tight end and not having to go through the transition.

“It’s been good,” Loggains said. “It’s been a pretty smooth transition because he’s so intelligent. You guys have talked to this kid. He’s highly intelligent. He’s going to be successful after football. He’s going to be successful in life because he’s a conceptual thinker. He wants to know the why in everything. Everything we do. Why do you take this step? Why is it important you get your second step in the ground? He has the advantage coming from the wideout room and being a conceptual thinker, he knows what all five guys are supposed to do. He also knows where the ball is supposed to go based on coverage, which also creates a problem for me in my room when he’s like ‘Hey, that’s Cover-4. That ball should be going to me.’ And all the sudden it goes to Haselwood. He’s a football intelligent guy. He’s got a high IQ, and that’s what has made the transition on top of the mental and physical toughness easy because he does have football intelligence.”

Hudson Henry is the most experienced tight end on the team as far as reps at the position. He likes the transition that Knox has made.

“Trey has done a fantastic job of moving to tight end,” Henry said. “A lot of guys can move positions and take it like the coaches don’t want them to do well, the coaches are trying to push them out, but Trey has handled it very well. He’s come in our room and he’s been a great leader. He’s put on the weight and not only weight, but he’s put on good weight. He looks good, he looks fast. He looks faster, honestly. He’s been playing good ball, blocking well. That’s a hard thing coming to tight end from receiver, is blocking in-line. You’re blocking 300-pounders. But Trey’s done a good job.”

Henry, Nathan Bax, Tyrus Washington and Erin Outley along with Knox make up the top five in the tight end room at this time according to Pittman.