FAYETTEVILLE — Receiver Cobi Hamilton wasn’t happy last Saturday, failing to meet his own lofty expectations during Arkansas’ first preseason scrimmage.
The senior caught five passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, but was quick to point out it wasn’t good enough after the practice had ended. Hamilton said he has to be dominant as Arkansas’ No. 1 receiver this season, and a handful of drops and other missed opportunities kept him well short of reaching that goal.
So Hamilton was motivated Saturday night, when the Razorbacks held their Fan Day scrimmage in Razorback Stadium. And he didn’t disappoint.
Hamilton was the star of Arkansas’ preseason scrimmage, catching 11 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns in front of an estimated crowd of 15,000. He had the biggest play of the scrimmage with a 65-yard touchdown catch, turning an intermediate route into a big play after shaking three would-be tacklers. Hamilton also added a 21-yard score pulling in a pass over cornerback Tevin Mitchell.
It led to a different assessment from Hamilton on Saturday night: “I feel good.”
“This whole scrimmage started Monday, preparing ourselves for the scrimmage because we know we didn’t have a lot of success last weekend,” Hamilton said. “We wanted to come out here, we knew there were going to be a lot of people out here, we wanted to show people what we were about. What this offense is capable of.”
Hamilton will be a big piece of what it accomplishes, serving as the team’s most experienced receiver after watching Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs head off to the NFL in the spring. He entered preseason camp as the one constant in a receiving corps loaded with plenty of question marks because of its youth.
He wasn’t bad last Saturday, but quarterback Tyler Wilson said the Razorbacks knew he was capable of more. Wilson even vocalized it early in the week, hinting publicly that Hamilton dropped three or four passes during the scrimmage.
So Wilson knew Hamilton would be motivated Saturday night.
“I think coach kind of got onto him,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t real happy. He said, ‘Put the ball in a better spot and maybe I can catch it.’ Maybe I threw it better tonight. …
“He played great. He was awesome.”
Wilson completed 22 of 37 passes for 252 yards with 3 touchdowns in the scrimmage, leading the first-team offense to scores on its first three possessions.
But they couldn’t keep up the pace, failing to get to the end zone over its next four possessions. Finally, Wilson and Hamilton hooked up three times for 46 yards on a 65-yard touchdown drive. The final play was the 21-yard touchdown to Hamilton.
It helped Hamilton finish the night accounting for half of Wilson’s 22 completions.
“Cobi had a big night,” Arkansas coach John L. Smith said. “And that’s what we expect from Cobi every night, every day. He’s a really good football player. And as you can tell, our guys look for him, because he’s a go-to guy.”
Hamilton and Wilson weren’t completely satisfied, though.
The Arkansas offense — which played without running backs Knile Davis (held out) and Dennis Johnson (death in the family) — was bogged down after its electric start.
Wilson blamed it on simple mistakes. There were a few penalties, some dropped passes and missed protections up front. The first-team offense reached the end zone on 5 of its 11 possessions. Backup quarterback Brandon Allen, who completed 16 of 23 passes for 262 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions, led the second-team group to the end zone five times on nine possessions.
“We had a fast start and we kind of got in that mode where we’ve got to be really careful,” Wilson said of the starters.
But Smith said improvement is needed on both sides of the ball. The scrimmage was the end of Arkansas’ preseason camp as classes begin on campus this week. It also means the Razorbacks are inching even closer to the Sept. 1 season opener.
“We have to get better,” Smith said. “We have two weeks to do it. And we’re going to do it.”
Hamilton did improve in the past week, taking an obvious step forward in Arkansas’ second scrimmage. But the receiver also believes he still can do more as he moves closer to the start of his final season – and first as Arkansas’ go-to receiver.
“I’ve got to keep working every day,” Hamilton said. “Just don’t get complacent. Just come out here and keep working every day. Keep getting with Tyler.
“We’ve just scratched the surface of what the season is going to be. I’m really excited about what this offense can do. It’s going to be amazing this year.”