State of the Hogs: Blooming Tight End

Trey Flowers will get some snaps at tight end in the fall. Hunter Henry said, "Come on over."

Bret Bielema is all about getting his best players on the field, even if that means all of them line up at tight end. No, that's not really true, but someone might think that way if Trey Flowers joins Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle in a special package next fall as a third tight end.

There's nothing concrete there yet, but Henry said it wouldn't surprise him since Flowers practiced at tight end in some unique sets last fall. And, that isn't a bad day for tight ends that don't have to practice against Flowers if he's over on offense for just a few plays. It's an all-day war between tight ends and Flowers on a typical practice day.

"We had some plays with Trey that we practiced last year," Henry said Wednesday. "We just never used them in a game. I welcome Trey to our position. Bring him over. He's a big impact player. We can use athletes there."

The thought of using Flowers at tight end was one of many topics Bielema covered at a media opportunity Wednesday to cover his second spring as Arkansas head coach. Among the other nuggets, Mitchell Loewen, coming back from ACL surgery in January, had asked to play some middle linebacker. Bielema "vetoed" that move, but said Loewen could help a depth shy defensive line.

And, Bielema said it would be up to offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to figure out a way to utilize all of a standout group of tailbacks. He listed Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall as 1A, 1B and 1C, but didn't say who got which letter.

They could play together, Bielema said, at either running back, wingback or in the slot. Williams said he hasn't seen any of those plays that require different positions, but he likes the idea.

"I think we could do that," Williams said. "I think we'd all like that and we could do it. I think it's some things that will be explored in conversations this summer and we'll look forward to that.

"Trey playing offense, we talked about that when we layed out our plan for him this spring and in the fall when he was making the decision to come back. He agreed to that."

Flowers said, "Oh, yeah, man. I like that. I think I got some of that tight end still in me. I think people have thought I might be a tight end when they see I wear the 86. That's a tight end number and I think I got a few moves in me. I played a little tight end in high school. A little bit. I show my moves when I get my hands on the football."

Williams welcomes "Big Trey" to offense, too.

"He can play anywhere he wants," Williams said. "I'd love that. I know he can play tight end and help us."

Bielema gets excited when he talks about the tight end position. He thinks the sky is the limit with Henry, especially as he's pushed for playing time with the likes of Jeremy Sprinkle, A.J. Derby and Alex Voelzke and possibly Flowers and incoming freshman Jack Kraus.

"The best thing that happened to Hunter, was the development of Jeremy and AJ," Bielema said. "It's always good to have one, it's better when there are two or three. Hunter gets better when he sees that someone else is getting his reps.

"When I've had one good tight end, it's great. But we've been a lot better with two because you can do some things to get the vertical routes open because it's hard to cover two."

That goes for putting multiple tailbacks on the field together. Williams reminded that he has played some fullback during his Arkansas time. He worked Kentucky over with the wheel route out of the fullback position.

"Yeah, anything that will help the team," Williams said of fullback possibilities. "Actually, my freshman year I played fullback a little bit. People I guess don't remember that but I played fullback a little bit my freshman year and whatever helps the offense go, I am willing to do."

Williams was willing to deflect some of the criticism from Brandon Allen, the usual target of fans when the offense hasn't clicked. That was the case after a below standards first half in the Red-White game for the number one offense.

"I feel like he got the blame for everybody, for the whole offensive going bad," Williams said. "He wasn't the only guy making mistakes. Everybody was out there. Nobody really had a lot of energy. Nobody was really playing with a lot of emotion. It was a combination of everybody doing bad and him getting the blame for it. But our team has the utmost confidence in him and we are excited for next year.

"He had a great spring. He stepped up as a leader. Him being healthy really let him showcase what he could do for our offense."

There was no showcase for Flowers. He sat out all of the scrimmages and was just a spectator for the spring game, as promised during Bielema's winter trip to Huntsville, Ala., to make his case for Flowers playing his senior year. Flowers said it wasn't much fun, but he understood.

"I did get mental reps and I did everything but tackle someone," he said. "I was in the physical part of all practices, just not the three scrimmages. We'd thud up in practice and I did that. I took the blocking live.

"I don't think it hindered anything. I believe I can still tackle. I learned a lot from our new defensive coaches this spring. I think I play a more aggressive style and I learned to use my hands better."

New line coach Rory Segrest is "an attack the gap type," Flowers said. "He stressed lead with the hands and follow with the hips. Our last coach stressed footwork, so this is a good complement to that. I think this was best for me."

And playing a little tight end might be best for the team, too. Next thing you know, Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and Korliss Williams will have a tight end play, too.

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