Seniors lead Arkansas wide receivers

April, 26, 2013
4/26/13
10:30
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Cobi Hamilton isn't walking through Arkansas' doors in 2013.

He may come back for a visit or two, but he won't be suiting up for the Razorbacks, which means that his single season school-record 90 receptions and 1,335 receiving yards aren't returning, either.

With a relatively inexperienced quarterback in Brandon Allen taking over and a brand new coaching staff in town, the Hogs will surely miss a top-flight receiver like Hamilton, but things aren't totally bleak in Fayetteville. The good news is that the Hogs will be able to replace Hamilton with numbers -- veteran numbers.

[+] EnlargeJavontee Herndon
Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsThe toughness of Arkansas WR Javontee Herndon has caught the eye of new coach Bret Bielema.
Arkansas has three senior receivers -- Javontee Herndon, Julian Horton and Demetrius Wilson -- sitting atop the post-spring depth chart. Now, they might only have 67 combined receptions among them, but they've been around the game long enough to generate some confidence in the coaching staff this spring.

Their hunger to make things right again at Arkansas during their last go-round also excites Arkansas' coaching staff.

"When you have three seniors and it's as important to them as it is, the other guys can kind of take shape around them," coach Bret Bielema said. "I expect them to lead us."

Herndon will enter the fall with the most production of the three. He has 31 career receptions for 473 yards and three touchdowns. He caught 21 of those passes and all of his touchdowns last year. Herndon's on-field attitude and toughness really impressed Bielema this spring.

"Probably one of the more physical guys in our group," Bielema said of Herndon.

While Wilson, who came from the junior college ranks last year, only caught nine passes in his first year with the Hogs in 2012, Bielema said he was Arkansas' top performer at receiver this spring. The thing that really made him stand out was his consistency and he bought into the offense and what coaches asked him to do.

"Everything he does is 100 miles an hour," Bielema said. "He's very engaged, he's very hard on himself. If he makes a mistake or does something that he knows is wrong he's very critical, but is quick to rebound and make a great play after it."

Then you have Horton, who caught 14 passes last year. He has the physical ability to be a real playmaker in this offense with his speed and elusiveness. Bielema said he really came on during the last few weeks of spring practice.

It's not going to be easy to replace Hamilton -- or his production -- but the Hogs have bodies to work with. The next step is really developing that on-field confidence during game situations. It'll be tough with a younger QB taking over, but this is where coaches have to lean on their vets.

The Hogs will call upon youngsters like Mekale McKay and Keon Hatcher to help this fall, but to have three seniors clicking like they are exiting spring is a big win for this new coaching staff.

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