HOGS: O'Grady vows better blocking; notes
FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas Razorbacks held a light practice Thursday as they prepped for Saturday’s non-conference game with Colorado State.
Arkansas (1-1 of the SEC) and the Rams (1-1 of the Mountain West) kick off at 3 p.m. Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The SEC Network will televise the game.
Coach Chad Morris and the Arkansas offensive staff continue to evaluate senior left guard Austin Capps, coming off an ankle injury, who did not play last week at Ole Miss. Freshman receiver Trey Knox has practiced all week but still limps from absorbing a hard hit on his hip late in last week’s game.
Call him Cheyenne or call him C.J. Just call the Arkansas Razorbacks glad to have him back, junior quarterback Nick Starkel said.
Starkel wasn’t even here last year when Fayetteville High grad and UA tight end Cheyenne (also called C.J.) O’Grady led last year’s Razorbacks with 30 catches for 400 yards and six touchdowns as a fourth-year junior.
The backup QB the first two games of 2019 as a graduate transfer from Texas A&M, Starkel starts for Arkansas the first Saturday vs. Colorado State.
Starkel earns the start after amassing 201 passing yards in the second half while relieving starter Ben Hicks in Saturday’s 31-17 SEC loss at Ole Miss.
Starkel’s first Arkansas start intersects with O’Grady’s second game back after missing the 20-13 season-opening victory over Portland State. O’Grady has rehabbed from mid-August arthroscopic knee surgery.
Last Saturday, O’Grady (6-4, 285) showed his great hands and surprising speed by catching three passes for 45 yards with a 25-yard long gainer, all from Starkel.
“People better find a way to cover C.J.,” Starkel said. “He’ll catch back-shoulders balls as you could see. He’ll go over the top of people. He’ll make plays. He’s a great kid to have out there.”
So Starkel thinks O’Grady has recovered from the knee scope?
“Definitely,” Starkel replied. “He’s moving very well and he moved well in the game, especially coming off an injury. I’m excited to see him back out there for this game.”
O’Grady’s return could have been thrilling but for a botched trick play that Starkel, as a second-teamer during practices, didn’t have familiarity to operate as Hicks did.
Starkel inadvertently threw a short forward pass instead of a pitch, and threw it to the wrong man on the wrong side. It squandered O’Grady running wide open on what was supposed to be a pass to him from freshman wide receiver Treylon Burks of Warren.
“Me being a senior, I couldn’t let that get to me,” O’Grady said. “Just looking ahead, thinking positive, stay in the game and tell everybody else the same thing.”
Besides, one Starkel mixup doesn’t subtract the life he injected into the Hogs after their offensively comatose first half in Oxford.
“So Nick came in and kind of gave us a spark,” O’Grady said. “We started doing some good things on offense, and we are all just behind him.”
Chad Morris generally lauded O’Grady’s first game of 2019 but didn’t praise all of it.
“I thought it looked like his first ballgame,” Morris said. “I thought there were some things he did well. Obviously he made the great catch across the middle. But I also thought we weren’t as physical in the run game as we want to be with him. So that’s a challenge we put in front of him. We anticipate this week being even better.”
O’Grady asserts his blocking better be better.
“I was really frustrated with how I blocked the last game,” O’Grady said. “I thought I was very soft and wasn’t using my hands like I thought I should. It was really sloppy fundamentals. This week I am working on it every day, even in my off-time. Working on shooting my hands to get them inside and not outside where I can get controlled by the defender.”
Arkansas, even with a great running back junior Rakeem Boyd, netted but 61 yards rushing against Ole Miss.
“We just have got to get everybody on the same page,” O’Grady said. “You can’t have one guy mess up, because if you do, it is going to upset the whole play. So we just have to get everybody on the same page.”