1. Moving On Without McKay
Arkansas’ receivers met with the media for the first time since coach Bret Bielema confirmed sophomore Mekale McKay wasn’t with the team and looking into transfer options.
Senior Julian Horton said the Razorbacks the group was disappointed to open preseason camp without McKay, who caught 21 passes last season.
“It sucks he’s not here,” Horton said. “I don’t even know what happened, but it’s between coach Bielema and Mekale McKay. We’re disappointed if we ever lose a player. It’s a teammate and a family member and brother to me. It’s disappointing, but it’s just how it is. He had to do what he had to do I guess.”
Bielema said Monday he had not yet granted McKay a release from his scholarship, but indicated the Louisville native wasn’t happy in Arkansas’ new offense.
McKay’s absence leaves the Razorbacks with Horton, Javontee Herndon, Demetrius Wilson, Keon Hatcher, D’Arthur Cowan, Eric Hawkins and Drew Morgan among the key players at the position this preseason. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said one of the receivers — Cowans —impressed with a “wonderful” practice Monday.
Receivers coach Michael Smith said he hopes to have eight receivers ready to play, meaning several will get opportunities to climb the depth chart in McKay’s absence.
“You’ll definitely see Eric Hawkins doing some stuff,” Smith said. “Keon Hatcher, D'Arthur Cowan, all those guys that played last year in spot roles. I’m going to have to bring along some younger guys to add some depth, but right now the seniors are playing really well and doing some really good things.”
2. New Look
Arkansas’ offensive line opened preseason practice with a new look. Literally.
Center Travis Swanson stepped into the interview room after Tuesday’s practice sporting the early stages of a Mohawk. Swanson said he came up with the idea and presented it to the offensive line, which agreed to follow his lead.
“It’s a cool thing I just thought of that a lot of the guys wanted to do,” Swanson said.
Of course, not everyone has complied with the new plan. Tackle Grady Ollison, who was standing a few feet from Swanson, still had a full head of hair Tuesday.
Swanson said it won’t be long before Ollison joins the group, which is regarded as one of the team’s biggest question marks entering the preseason.
“He says his is on the way,” Swanson said of Ollison. “He’s still debating on how he wants to do it. Some guys just winged it. It was a spur of the moment idea.”
3. ‘He’s Good'
Running backs coach Joel Thomas only needed two words to answer one question Tuesday. What’s his early impression of freshman running back Alex Collins?
“He’s good,” Thomas said.
Thomas eventually elaborated, saying Collins has shown some of the potential Arkansas expected when it signed the Florida native. The Razorbacks are hoping to see more of it when they move into the next phase of acclimation. Arkansas will wear shoulder pads Wednesday and Thursday, then practice in full pads Friday.
“He was one of the top recruits in the country and he’s showed flashes in practice so far,” Thomas said of Collins. “Real football starts (Wednesday), though.”
4. Great Shape
Chaney was concerned about his group’s conditioning after spring practice.
It appears the long summer has fixed any of his doubts.
“We’re running a lot of routes out there,” Chaney said. “We’re pushing a lot of things and I haven’t noticed any fatigue. I think the endurance is better.
“I was concerned with the stamina of our group when we left spring and I feel like, I’m really comfortable in saying, I don’t notice that a bit right now.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau