Trio Of Tight Ends Highlight Arkansas' Class

Arkansas signed a class of 24 players - one good enough to be ranked 22nd nationally by Scout.com - on Wednesday and the haul included three of the nation's top 10 tight ends.

There is arguably no position more well-stocked from the new 2015 Arkansas recruiting class than at tight end.

In fact, the Razorbacks - whose 24-man class is ranked 22nd nationally by scout.com - added three of the nation’s top 10 tight ends in Dumas’ Will Gragg (6-4, 252), Fayetteville’s C.J. O’Grady (6-4, 230) and Austin Cantrell (6-4, 245) of Roland, Okla.

Gragg is the nation’s fourth-best tight end in the 2015 class per scout.com while ESPN.com had Gragg as the sixth-best nationally, O’Grady as its seventh-best tight end and Cantrell as its ninth-best in the country.

“Will is probably the biggest of the group,” Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said at the Razorbacks’ signing day press conference on Wednesday. “C.J. has probably the most ability to jump and ball skills of the group and Austin is probably the hardest, meanest toughest of the group, just a hard-nosed will get it done guy.

“So they are all a little bit different,” Bielema added. “Austin Cantrell can dunk like there is no other. You can't put guys into stereotypes. He is a really, really good player and I am excited to watch all three.”

Cantrell, a finalist for Mr. Football in Oklahoma, was the only two-way star of the bunch.

He rushed 95 times for 600 yards, caught 14 passes for 270 yards, had 75 tackles at defensive end with 15 sacks and 29 tackles for lost yardage and also averaged 40 yards per punt.

“Austin to me, probably, is the guy I'm most excited just to see what he's going to do,” Bielema said. “Incredible kid, right outside the state border here in Roland ... Competes, plays a little bit of everything.

“Throw on the film, I didn't know if I was going to have recruit him as a linebacker, a running back, but we're going to settle him in to the tight end room,” Bielema added. “He’ll work with (Arkansas tight ends) Coach (Barry) Lunney at kind of the H-position. A kid with incredible upside.”

O’Grady was the most prolific pass catcher of the three the last two seasons as hauled in 86 passes for 1,650 yards and 25 touchdowns the past two seasons.

“Tremendous athlete,” Bielema said. “Going to use him at the Y position. Can run, catch. A guy that I think is just scratching the surface of his athletic ability.”

Gragg, the brother of former Arkansas and current Buffalo Bills tight end Chris Gragg has a head start on the others as he is one of eight players who enrolled early in January.

He caught 42 passes for 456 yards and two touchdowns as a senior.

“The brother of Chris, but I think Will's named Will for a reason,” Bielema said. “He's his own independent man. He's been very impressive since coming to campus. Grew up with a little bit of a spotlight on him because of his name and his brother.

“But has been nothing but impressive to not only our coaches but our players since he arrived on campus,” Bielema added. “Again, (his parents) Kelvin and Tenita did just as good a job of raising this one as they did the other one. Expect big things out of Will.”

Those three guys will all add to the mix under Lunney, who has Hunter Henry, Jeremy Sprinkle and Alex Voelzke returning for last season.

“We had two guys catch a lot of balls last year,” Lunney said. “A third played significant time for us. But it's going to be fun to watch and get these guys on campus because they do all three have different skill set. I think they it'll a nice complement to our offense.

“It'll be fun to see which course it takes as far as where they end up playing, how they'll be used,” Lunney added. “We have a good feel for that, I think they have a good feel for that, but we certainly don't want to pigeon-hole any of them into something that they're not capable of doing or more maybe than they’re capable of doing more than what we pigeon-hole them in.

“So let's see how they get here, how they learn the offense then use those skill sets to the best of our advantage,” Lunney said.

Bielema noted that he should never have trouble getting tight ends and offensive linemen to Arkansas and Lunney agrees.

“We know we've got three good players that a lot of people wanted to get in their program,” Lunney said. “And because of our reputation of using them, because of us getting on them fairly early, they migrated toward our campus.

“I think they were comfortable knowing there were going to be two other guys in the class because they know we use them a lot and I think they see themselves somewhat as being different from each other,” Lunney said.

“They're not all cookie-cutter,” Lunney continued. “They're not all 6-5, 240 and do the same thing.”

Those three tight ends are all expected to see the field next season for Arkansas, who had 8 of its 24 signees enrolled in January. ?The Razorbacks have one scholarship left over if they choose to use it.

“Well, I think for Josh Allen, Daytrieon Dean, Hjalte Froholdt, Will Gragg, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Jalen Merrick, Zach Rogers and Ty Storey, to get those guys in early…in right now - unbelievable," Bielema said.

“Ledbetter, I mean every time I see him, I see him on the weekends, he's just physically changing right in front of our eyes,” Bielema added. “To get those guys in this early is very, very helpful.

“Then it sounds like, because we're not starting the summer school session until the last week of May, we should get a lot of those guys in for both summer schools,” Bielema continued. “Any time you can do that, you've really got a chance. I expect all these guys to come in and play. Whether it's their first or second or third year is really kind of up to them.”


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