NCF Nation: Chris Gragg

The injuries are mounting to mind-numbing proportions for Arkansas.

The latest addition to the injury list is senior defensive end Tenarius Wright, who’s scheduled to have shoulder surgery and will miss the rest of the season. Senior linebacker Alonzo Highsmith, the team’s leading tackler, was lost for the season after injuring his foot in last week’s game. He had surgery Monday.

“It’s been one of those years. You can’t explain it,” Arkansas coach John L. Smith said.

Tight end Chris Gragg, who’s missed the past two games with a bone bruise on his leg, is improving, but Smith said Wednesday it’s “very, very doubtful” that Gragg will be able to play this Saturday against Kentucky.

The Hogs are hopeful that cornerback Tevin Mitchel will be able to return this week. He missed the past four games after suffering a concussion and having his gall bladder removed.

“(Tuesday) was his first day of contact and doing some tackling drills,” Smith said. “He had a real good day and felt very comfortable.”

Smith said getting Mitchel back would allow the Hogs to move some people around in the secondary. Freshmen Will Hines and Davyon McKinney both started at cornerback last week.

Another player the Hogs will have this weekend is junior defensive end Chris Smith, who was arrested early Wednesday on a warrant for failure to appear in court. He missed a July 18 court date after being stopped for speeding.

John L. Smith said Wednesday that Chris Smith would play against Kentucky.

“I’ve met with Chris, and we’ll get that handled,” John L. Smith said when asked about the details of Smith being allowed to play.
Arkansas coach John L. Smith isn't sure if he'll have tight end Chris Gragg for Saturday's game at Texas A&M.

Gragg has been day-to-day after suffering a bone bruise in his leg, and Smith said he would know more about the senior's status for Saturday following Wednesday's practice.

Without Gragg in the lineup, the Razorbacks lose a valuable receiving target. On the season, Gragg is second on the team with 19 catches for 234 yards and two touchdowns. He also provides a matchup problem for defenders because of his size and speed. He and receiver Cobi Hamilton are the only players with double-digit catches for the Razorbacks this season.

Even if Gragg does return Saturday, Smith said he doesn't anticipate getting a lot of action out of him against the Aggies.

"We have to kind of plan that Chris will be limited at best," Smith said Wednesday.

Junior Austin Tate will most likely fill in for Gragg if he can't go. Tate has four catches for 30 yards this season, but doesn't possess the same explosiveness that Gragg does. Smith added that if Tate does start, he won't receive the same amount of attention in the offense as Gragg.

"We just have to pick up the slack," Smith said. "Whoever's in there has to believe that they're going to pick up the slack and they're going to get the job done."

Player of the Week: SEC

September, 3, 2012
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It was hard to find a better performer in the SEC than Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson this weekend.

He entered the year as arguably the SEC's top quarterback and showed us exactly why when he threw for conference-high 367 yards and three touchdowns in Arkansas' 49-24 win over Jacksonville State. Wilson not only outdid the SEC, but he outdid every other opening-day Arkansas quarterback to come through Fayetteville, as his 367 passing yards set a new school record for passing yards in an opener. The previous high was 318 by Casey Dick against Western Illinois in 2008.

Wilson also tied the Arkansas record for touchdown passes in a season opener, becoming the third Arkansas quarterback to throw for three touchdowns in the first game of the season. He's now fifth on Arkansas’ list for career touchdown passes with 34.

His quarterback rating for the weekend also topped the SEC at 221.2.

Wilson might have been down his three NFL receivers from a year ago, but he did an excellent job of spreading the ball around Saturday. Two of his receiving targets -- wide receiver Brandon Mitchell and tight end Chris Gragg -- both eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark. Gragg caught a game-high seven catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns and Mitchell, who moved from quarterback, caught four passes for a game-high 122 yards.

Wilson has what it takes to be a real Heisman candidate this season and he's off to a great start.
Justin Hunter and Da'Rick RogersAP Photo/Wade PayneJustin Hunter (11) and Da'Rick Rogers (21) are considered to be the best receiving duo in the SEC.
Our SEC position rankings continue with a look at schools' wide receiver and tight end groups.

Past rankings:
On to the league's wide receiver/tight end groups:

1. Tennessee: The Vols are equipped with two of the top wideouts in the league with Da'Rick Rogers, who was second in the SEC in receiving last year, and Justin Hunter, who might be the SEC's top deep threat. It sounds like Hunter will be 100 percent this fall after his ACL injury last year. Junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson is big, fast and possesses the big-play gene. The speedy Zach Rogers is back and is so is talented tight end Mychal Rivera.

2. Arkansas: Cobi Hamilton is now Arkansas' primary receiver, and he might be the league's most complete wideout. He can make the big-play and elude defenders along the way. While Marquel Wade's status is still unclear, if he does return, he'll be a major lift for this offense because of his playmaking ability in the slot. Julian Horton and Javontee Herndon have always impressed coaches in practice and now will get their chances to in games. Tight end Chris Gragg should be even more involved and is the league's top tight end.

3. Georgia: While Malcolm Mitchell could go back and forth between receiver and corner, when he's at receiver he's Georgia's top offensive threat and was one of the league's best as a rookie. There are vets behind him, starting with reliable senior Tavarres King, who had a very good spring, senior Marlon Brown, who seemed to take a big step in his game this spring. Sophomores Michael Bennett and Chris Conley combined for 48 catches for 608 yards and seven touchdowns last year. Unproven tight ends Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome will replace Orson Charles and Aron White.

4. Texas A&M: This isn't the fastest group out there, but there are some pretty reliable weapons, starting with star Ryan Swope, who could have left for the NFL after catching 89 passes for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Uzoma Nwachukwu was third on the team with 50 catches for 639 yards and three tight ends -- Nehemiah Hicks, Michael Lamothe and Hutson Prioleau -- return. Keep an eye on junior Nate Askew, who could be a downfield threat this fall.

5. LSU: Odell Beckham Jr. was one of the top rookies last year and could be even better in Year 2. He'll be joined by potential deep threat and big-play target Jarvis Landry, who developed some good chemistry with quarterback Zach Mettenberger this spring. Russell Shepard is talented, but he's been wildly inconsistent. Keep an eye on junior James Wright and incoming frosh Avery Johnson, who is the younger brother of Patrick Peterson. Also, tight end Chase Clement is on the John Mackey watch list.

[+] EnlargeJordan Matthews
Don McPeak/US PresswireWide receiver Jordan Matthews is one player the Commodores will be counting on this fall.
6. Vanderbilt: This group surprised last year and returns most of its components, starting with Jordan Matthews, who was fourth in the SEC in receiving last year. Sophomore Chris Boyd was solid last year, hauling in 31 catches and eight touchdowns. Jonathan Krause is very good in space and should see his role increase this fall after a solid spring. The coaches are excited about former QB Josh Grady moving to receiver. Replacing tight end Brandon Barden won't be easy.

7. Alabama: There is more speed out wide in Tuscaloosa, but there's a lot more youth. The Tide could turn to freshmen Chris Black, Amari Cooper and Eddie Williams to help develop a more downfield passing game. More will be expected from veterans Kenny Bell and Kevin Norwood, while sophomore DeAndrew White possesses a ton of speed. Still no word on Duron Carter. Tight end Michael Williams was solid last year, but will be used even more this fall.

8. Mississippi State: There is a lot of experience here, but this group has still underperformed at times, especially senior Chad Bumphis, who has yet to live up to all the hype that followed him from high school. Seniors Chris Smith and Arceto Clark combined for 65 catches last year, while the staff is very excited about the big-play potential redshirt freshman Joe Morrow possesses. Tight end Malcolm Johnson serves as a very reliable tight end target, as well.

9. Missouri: The Tigers lost two starting receivers and stud tight end Michael Egnew, but three of the top five pass catchers are back, including inside threat T.J. Moe, who led Mizzou in receiving last year. Big things are expected from Marcus Lucas, who can stretch the field with his speed and physicality, and the coaches think L'Damian Washington can also be a downfield threat. Also, Dorial Green-Beckham, last year's top recruit, should make an immediate impact. Eric Waters is replacing Egnew, but has just two career catches and suffered a knee injury this spring.

10. Auburn: Emory Blake is one of the league's top downfield threats and has been one of Auburn's most consistent offensive weapons. So has tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who should be more of a passing threat with the addition of transfer fullback Jay Prosch. There is a lot of depth, but it's unproven. Trovon Reed was supposed to be a star, but had a lackluster second year. Seniors Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton have 15 and 14 career catches, respectively. Quan Bray has shown potential and could have a bigger role this season and keep an eye on freshman Ricardo Louis.

11. Florida: The Gators have struggled here since 2009 and still lack proven playmakers. Andre Debose is probably the best bet to be one, but he's been very inconsistent. Quinton Dunbar has the speed to be an outside threat, but caught just 14 passes last year. And the coaches are still waiting for senior Frankie Hammond Jr. to turn things up. True freshman Latroy Pittman had a great spring and the coaches are excited about his potential. Tight end Jordan Reed is one of the most athletic players in the league and will be a bigger target with two young quarterbacks throwing the ball.

12. South Carolina: Now that Alshon Jeffery is gone, the Gamecocks have questions and inexperience here. The fast, athletic Ace Sanders is the only returning pass catcher with at least 20 catches from last year (29). The hope is Bruce Ellington will be more of a factor this fall. Tight ends Justice Cunningham and Rory Anderson combined for 26 catches and four touchdowns. Damiere Byrd has blazing speed, but caught just one pass last year. DeAngelo Smith had a solid spring, and the coaches hope he can be a downfield threat. A lot will be expected from incoming freshman Shaq Roland.

13. Ole Miss: Sophomore Donte Moncrief is a budding star in this league and thinks he'll be even better in Hugh Freeze's spread offense. Ja-Mes Logan caught 20 passes last year, but had a very good spring. But Nickolas Brassell was an academic casualty and Randall Mackey had to move over from quarterback. The coaches are looking for consistency from Terrell Grant and Vince Sanders, who are both pretty unproven. Tight end Jamal Mosley is expected to do more in the spread and averaged 13.8 yards per catch last year.

14. Kentucky: Joker Phillips' goal this spring was to find more playmakers and he thinks he did with sophomore Demarco Robinson, who had five receptions last year, and redshirt freshman Daryl Collins. The hope is that they'll take some pressure off of La'Rod King, who is really the only proven receiving threat on the team. Tight ends Ronnie Shields and Tyler Robinson did well this spring, but combined for just 10 catches last year.

Hogs' Tyler Wilson returning to school

January, 13, 2012
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Most in and around the Arkansas program felt like quarterback Tyler Wilson would be back for his senior season, and he made it official on Friday.

[+] EnlargeTyler Wilson
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireArkansas QB Tyler Wilson became an attractive NFL prospect after his strong junior season.
Wilson released a statement through the Arkansas media relations department that read:
"I have decided to stay at Arkansas for the 2012 season because I am extremely excited for what this team has the opportunity to accomplish and to finish earning my degree. After the feedback I received, the decision was difficult to make. Ultimately, the chance to complete my academics and play one more season as a Razorback were compelling reasons for me to remain in Fayetteville. This past year was great for us with 11 wins and a top-five finish and we want to build on that. The group of players we have returning has high expectations and wants to work hard to compete for championships. Although my goal is to play in the NFL, I believe I can benefit greatly from another year of working with Coach (Bobby) Petrino and Coach Paul Petrino. I am excited to be able to spend one more season at a university where the leadership shows a tremendous amount of support and the passion of the fans is the best in the country."

Coupled with running back Knile Davis' announcement last week that he would be back next season, the Hogs return what should be the best one-two punch in the league at quarterback and running back, particularly if Davis can recapture the same form that made him the SEC's leading rusher among running backs during the 2010 season.

The Hogs will need some younger players to step up in the passing game, but receiver Cobi Hamilton and tight end Chris Gragg both return for their senior seasons. Gragg caught 41 passes this season, while Hamilton was second on the team to Jarius Wright with four touchdown catches.

Wilson, in his first full season as a starter, led the SEC with 3,683 passing yards and also threw 24 touchdown passes to go along with just six interceptions.

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