Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Wright has been Mr. Steady for Hogs
By Chris Low
Jarius Wright's 281-yard performance on Saturday ranks him No. 2 on the SEC's list of most receiving yards in a game.
By the time Jarius Wright got to his cell phone last Saturday afternoon, it had blown up.
Well, not literally, but “blown up” in the same sense that Wright did earlier in the day at Cowboys Stadium in a record-breaking performance.
“I think everybody in the state of Arkansas had sent me some kind of message,” Wright joked.
It was a memorable day for Wright and the Hogs.
He tied the Arkansas record with 13 catches and broke the school record with 281 receiving yards. In fact, he’d already eclipsed the record for receiving yards by halftime.
If you’re wondering how Wright’s performance stacks up all-time in the SEC, it’s the second-best day ever in terms of receiving yards in a game. The only one better was turned in by LSU’s Josh Reed in 2001, when he had 293 receiving yards against Alabama.
It’s one of those games that nobody will soon forget. Wright put up incredible numbers and so did quarterback Tyler Wilson, who passed for a school-record 510 yards.
But the number that Wright is fixated on is four, because it was the Hogs’ fourth win and a win they badly needed after being flattened by Alabama the week before.
And the way they won is what means the most to Wright. The Hogs charged back from an 18-point halftime deficit to beat Texas A&M 42-38.
“It shows the kind of composure we have as a team and that we’re going to keep our heads and stick together no matter what,” said Wright, who now leads the SEC in catches (28) and receiving yards (478). “It’s the kind of win we can build on moving forward.”
As for it being a statement game for Wright, he said he doesn’t really see it that way.
The Hogs entered this season with a collection of receivers widely regarded as the best in college football.
Greg Childs was probably the most highly regarded by NFL scouts. Joe Adams was the guy everyone feared after the catch, and Cobi Hamilton was the up-and-comer of the group.
Wright was sort of the other guy. Everybody knew he had great speed, but could he be the go-to guy?
It’s safe to say that the 5-10, 180-pound senior has answered that question emphatically this season. He’s easily been the most consistent of the Arkansas receivers, and he’s a leader in every sense.
What’s more, he’s never been caught up in where he ranks in any pecking order.
“I don’t ever get into the argument about who’s the best receiver in the SEC,” Wright said. “That doesn’t matter to me as much as winning. I just want to win. That’s the first priority, and stats come second.
“As long as we win the game, I’m going to be happy.”
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino could tell back in the offseason that Wright was poised for a big year.
“Jarius started this off in the winter with his best season of training, his fastest 40 time, weighed the most he’s ever weighed, lifted the most he’s ever lifted and really, really dedicated himself to having a great senior year,” Petrino said. “He’s been the leader of that receiving corps now for three years and gives us great energy and great play.”
Wright, who ran a 4.27 in the 40-yard dash back in March, has put that speed to good use this season after the catch.
“He’s a great route-runner. He’s extremely fast and catches the ball well in his hands,” Petrino said. “I think what he’s added to his game this year is the ability to run after the catch, and the yards he’s made after catching the ball have really increased from the previous three years.”
The added attention Wright may receive from opposing defenses the rest of the way may also increase.
Adams injured his ribs last week, but is expected to play this Saturday against Auburn. Childs is still working his way back from last season’s torn patellar tendon.
But don’t be fooled, Wright warned.
“We have a lot of weapons, and if you shadow me, then that’s going to leave Joe or Greg or Cobi or one of the younger guys open,” Wright said. “If you want to do that, go ahead.”