Proving Their Worth
Arkansas had four players selected in the NFL Draft last weekend, but next year could be even more eventful for the program.
Quarterback Tyler Wilson has been projected as the No. 1 overall pick for the 2013 draft in multiple early mock drafts after returning for his senior season. Wilson submitted his name to the NFL Draft advisory board before deciding to return for his senior season in mid-January.
“That is a little bit flattering, vut we have to take care of stuff on the field in order for that to happen,” Wilson said. “I am not going to get ahead of myself but obviously that is pretty cool and we will continue to work.”
Defensive end Jake Bequette was drafted in the third round Friday night before the trio of Hogs receivers –– Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs –– were selected in the fourth round early Saturday.
“It went about like I thought and I am happy for our guys that got the chance to go,” Wilson said. “I am excited for all of them.”
Arkansas senior receiver Cobi Hamilton was in Warren with Wright when he was selected by the Vikings with the No. 118 pick overall.
“I was fortunate enough to be there when Jarius got drafted and it was real fun to sit there and see dreams come true within my eyes,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton could make his own dreams come true next year.
The 6-foot-3, 209-pounder is a consensus top three receiver entering his senior season. After catching 13 touchdowns his first three seasons, Hamilton is the Hogs top returning receiver.
“I am one more step there and you have to make sure you finish,” Hamilton said about next year’s NFL Draft. “You want to finish the year strong and finish the legacy that you started here.”
In Wright, Childs and Adams, Arkansas loses 249 catches over the past two seasons. Outside of Hamilton, the Hogs will rely on sophomore receiver Marquel Wade and senior tight end Chris Gragg, who is ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper’s No. 1 rated tight end for the 2013 draft.
“Those guys we lost are going to be tough to replace but you have Cobi, Chris Gragg and Marquel Wade, who I think is going to have an outstanding year,” Wilson said. “He has come a long way. He made plays all over the field, especially in the spring game.”
Wade had six catches for 136 yards and a touchdown for the Red team in its 65-0 rout of the White team in the spring game. He had eight catches for 62 yards last season as a freshman.
“I already had seen this (opportunity) coming,” Wade said. “When I got kicked out and eventually came back, coach told me that was something I should expect so I have to step up and do what I need to do.”
Wade was part of the 2010 recruiting class but the Florida native didn’t qualify academically and had to leave campus in August 2010 to attend prep school for a season before returning in 2011.
“A lot of the things that I learned had to do with maturity really,” Wade said. “I am just trying to become a better sportsman and good player on the field, so I won’t do anything bad for the team.”
Last season during the Razorbacks’ win at Vanderbilt, Wade was ejected for a vicious hit on Commodores punt returner Jonathan Krause.
“I learned from that and I apologize for that situation right there, but I have to move on and do what I have to do next season,” Wade said.
Even while the NFL has evolved from a power-running attack to a passing game on offense, several teams still utilize a fullback.
Arkansas senior fullback Kiero Small watched multiple fullbacks get drafted over the weekend, including the first, USC’s Rhett Ellison, taken in the fourth round.
“It tells me that it can always happen,” Small said about his chances to get drafted in 2013. “A lot of fullbacks don’t get drafted but if a team has a need they will fulfill it and it can happen.”
With excitement stemming from the 2012 draft and anticipation for the 2013 draft, Hamilton said the offense is going to be as explosive despite losing three receivers.
“It is going to be a fun year,” Hamilton said. “Our offense is what is great because you have running backs, tight ends and fullbacks that are all good at their position and obviously you have us wide receivers. I am ready for an excited season.”
Funderburk leaves program
Sophomore receiver Quinta Funderburk has been granted his release from the program, coach John L. Smith said through a UA spokesperson.
The 6-foot-4 freshman from Chesapeake, Va., redshirted last season.
A&M could return to Arlington
Though Arkansas will play its first road game of the season at Texas A&M in September, then host the Aggies in Fayetteville in 2013, the two teams are working to move the series back to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in 2014 and beyond, the UA announced Wednesday.
The teams, now both members of the Southeastern Conference, played in the Southwest Classic during the past three seasons as a nonconference game. Arkansas won all three games.