When Bentonville tight end and Arkansas 2014 commitment Jack Kraus lines up next Friday at the Southwest Elite Classic 7-on-7 tournament at Shiloh Christian, he'll look a little different than the time most football fans saw him.
Kraus has blossomed into a 6-foot-5, 250-pound prospect that is one of the Razorbacks' five pledges in the 2014 class.
"I've put on some weight and gained some strength and it feels really good on me," said Kraus, who played at around 230 last season. "I feel like I have kept my speed and gotten better at my route running so I feel really good about how the off-season has gone for me."
Bentonville – 12-1 last season - has won the last six 7A West or 7A/6A West titles, but has lost to Fayetteville in each of the last state title games.
That has spurred the Tigers on through the off-season according to Kraus, whose class is hoping to advoide the dubious distinction of being the first one since 2007 to not have a state title during their three-year careers.
"We had a very good spring practice with lots of new faces," Kraus said. "We do have some experienced guys like myself to lead the way and I think we got better every day, which is the goal.
"I think I did pretty well overall although I did have an ankle injury that set me back a little," Kraus said. "I'm fine now and we are just getting back into the passing league and getting ready for the 7-on-7 tournaments."
Kraus caught 19 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns as a junior last season and is poised to see a bigger role this season in the passing game.
"Our coaches have been splitting me out more and getting me into more of a wide reciever type role instead of just being a tight end," Kraus said. "They want to take advantage of my size and my route running ability. I am excited about the opportunity to catch some more passes."
As usual, Bentonville faces a challenging early season schedule with an opener at Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst on Sept. 6 and then home games with Broken Arrow, Okla., and Texas power Euless Trinity.
"We have really high standards at Bentonville and we think it really helps us to play tough games early and be ready by the time conference season rolls around," Kraus said. "Our goals are always to win the conference title and then to win the state title."
Kraus has maintained contact with Arkansas coaches since his commitment, especially Razorback tight end coach and former Bentonville assistant coach Barry Lunney, Jr.
"I have a great relationship with all of the Arkansas coaches, especially Coach Lunney since he was at Bentonville and is still my neighbor," Kraus said. "I'm really excited about where the program is headed."
Kraus is anxious for the Southwest Elite tournament, which will feature 32 teams from 11 states vying the for title.
He joins 2014 Arkansas quarterback commit Rafe Peavey (6-2, 212) of Boliver (Mo.) and 2015 quarterback pledge Ty Storey (6-3, 215) as fellow Razorback commitments participating in the tournament.
"It should be a lot of fun and tight ends like myself love it because it is all passing," Kraus said. "I think it is a good way of helping to get our timing down and just keep pushing toward the season."
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