Hogs add more size to monstrous O line w/Jefferson in tight end rotation
FAYETTEVILLE - It may seem with sophomore Hunter Henry, second-team All-SEC last year, AJ Derby, Jeremy Sprinkle and Alex Voelzke on hand while freshman Jack Kraus of Bentonville redshirts because of the depth, that Arkansas has more than enough solid to sometimes spectacular tight ends.
Soph TE HUNTER HENRY
Yet, even after this season began, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema added another tight end.
Cameron Jefferson, the offensive lineman who transferred with immediate graduate eligibility from UNLV, arrived at Arkansas believing he would be a guard, got moved to tackle and now plays tight end, too.
Accordingly wearing two different numbers, 79 as an offensive tackle and a receiver eligible 89 as a tight end, Jefferson (6-6, 307) played both positions as a backup during Saturday's 73-7 rout of Nicholls State at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Bielema anticipates Jefferson logging time at both spots when the Razorbacks (1-1 after losing their opener 45-21 at No. 5 Auburn) and 2-0 Texas Tech collide in Saturday's 2:30 p.m ABC televised non-conference game at Jones Stadium in Lubbock.
"Cam Jefferson, I think got almost 40 snaps between tight end and tackle and really has added depth immediately to our program," Bielema said.
Jefferson played both guard and tackle at UNLV and would have been the Rebels team captain before transferring because UNLV was penalized with a bowl ban for its football team's low APR (academic progress rate). Jefferson moved from guard to tackle during the August preseason. Bielema, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and offensive line coach Sam Pittman were pleased with junior college transfer Sebastian Tretola's development behind starting guards Denver Kirkland and Luke Charpentier. They deemed Jefferson a natural to provide needed tackle depth behind starters Brey Cook and Dan Skipper.
Chaney explained it was natural adding some tight end situations for Jefferson, much bigger than the other tight ends with 307 pounds on his 6-6 frame, but still athletic.
"We felt Cameron has earned the right to be on the field a little bit, and I have been looking for a little bit more mass at that position," Chaney said. "We asked Cameron if he would be happy to do it and he said he would. I look for us to stay with that package a little bit and see how it evolves."
Tight ends coach Barry Lunney said the other tight ends didn't have to be sold on Jefferson playing tight end in certain situations.
"Our guys know it's just facts that he is 50 pounds heavier," Lunney said. "So why wouldn't we use him there some to take some of the plays off of Hunter? It has no correlation with what those guys aren't doing but it's about what Cam is doing."
Lunney is the tight ends coach but says Pittman remains Jefferson's coach.
"Sam handles him and tells him 'Just keep doing the same stuff you are doing but line up one spot over," Lunney said.
Pittman said Jefferson's move came off watching an Auburn alignment in the Razorbacks' season-opening loss two games ago.
"They put (defensive tackle) Gabe Wright over the top of our tight ends and he's 315 pounds," Pittman said. "We're going to have combat that at some point so we decided to use Cam out there."
Averaging 320 pounds per man, Arkansas' offensive line would be the third largest in the NFL without Jefferson at tight end.
Jefferson said he last played tight end in junior high. He said he played 36 plays at tackle, four at tight end and even took a turn at fullback during Saturday's 73-7 rout of Nicholls State.
"I think bringing that extra big body helps Hunter Henry or Derby or Sprinkle," Jefferson said. "As long as I know the play at that position I can bring more power to it."
Lunney was asked if Jefferson has caught passes in practice.
"I haven't seen him in a passing line yet," Lunney said.
Does Jefferson have a secret yen to catch one?
"We'll see," Jefferson replied. "Just got to keep blocking for now."
And keeping his No. 79 and No. 89 jerseys correctly available for the correct positions.
"I have to have two jerseys ready at all times," Jefferson said.
Regarding Tuesday's practice, Pittman said, " I wish it would have been better. I didn't think we finished our blocks as well as we should have with the game as big as this one is coming up. I felt our intensity should have been better up front and they know it. I am assuming it will be better tomorrow."
Running backs coach Joel Thomas said sophomore Korliss Marshall, not used against Nicholls State, Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams all practiced Tuesday.
"Yeah, all my guys were out there practicing full speed," Thomas said. "Good to have all the legs."
Williams needed only four carries against Nicholls State to net 143 yards, one a 90-yard touchdown that appeared untouched.
"Somebody might dusted his jersey here and there," Thomas said.
On getting just the four carries before taking a seat in the rout, Williams said, "I mean you've got to be happy. I'm not the coach. I don't tell who gets to play. So you just have to go with it."