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Andy Hodges

Hogs’ offensive improvement coincides with O’Grady’s

Everyone spent the first few weeks of this football season asking first about Arkansas’ offense followed closely by the status of tight end Cheyenne O’Grady and it became clear Saturday why.

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Everyone spent the first few weeks of this football season asking first about Arkansas’ offense followed closely by the status of tight end Cheyenne O’Grady.

He spent the first two weeks of the regular season at home for violating team rules where he basically was pouting after reportedly blowing off some classes and tardiness to workouts.

His friend and high school teammate Dre Greenlaw sent out a tweet that got O’Grady’s attention along with something clicking watching the Razorbacks’ loss to Colorado State.

“Sometimes you just need your friend to come in and tell you, ‘Hey, you’ve got to pick it up,'” Greenlaw said after Saturday’s loss to Alabama. “We all need that person.”

O’Grady also needed to realize what he was missing, which happened watching that game against Colorado State on television.

“That’s not what I came here to do,” the Fayetteville native said in the post-mortem after the game against the Crimson Tide. “Something just clicked and it didn’t feel right.”

If the light came on a couple of weeks ago it started shining a little brighter Saturday.

O’Grady had seven catches for 48 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

It’s probably not a coincidence the Hogs’ offense has started to solidify about the same time as O’Grady getting his act together.

“He’s really come along and you can see the raw talent the guy has,” quarterback Ty Storey said after the Alabama game. “I think it’s important for us to keep improving on that. He’s going to be a huge factor for us going forward.”

It’s become apparent a lot of what Chad Morris and offensive coordinator Joe Craddock have wanted to do with this offensive involves a tight end, preferably an athletic one that can be used as a weapon.

They added some things for the tight ends in practice last week that they got from the Kansas City Chiefs, who are the talk of the NFL right now with quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“I probably shouldn’t say that,” Storey said Saturday after he’d already thrown it out there. “But that’s where we got it.”

It was the wrinkle Morris and Craddock put in last week to figure out a way to move the ball against the Crimson Tide’s linebackers.

“We kept trying to come back to it and disguise it different ways, but it worked pretty good for us,” Storey said.

The Hogs got 10 catches from tight ends with Austin Cantrell and Grayson Gunter contributing. Eight of those 10 catches resulted in touchdowns or first downs.

That was something the Hogs’ offense had been missing.

“They were very aggressive in the D-line in how they rushed, the stunts they would do,” Morris said Saturday. “I thought maybe we could slow some things down by hitting our tight ends on some delays in the middle.”

The result also set up the wheel route for running back Rakeem Boyd in addition to opening up some running lanes that let him run for 102 net yards, becoming the first Razorback to hit triple digits against Alabama since Darren McFadden did it in 2007.

Jeremy Patton’s out for a few more weeks after ankle surgery, so O’Grady’s return came at a perfect time.

There’s players four deep at the tight end position for the Hogs, but O’Grady is a playmaker and might be the most talented there.

“He might not realize it, but he’s just got so much potential,” Greenlaw said. “I know the amount he can contribute and help this team and really make us a lot better.”

Morris knows what O’Grady brings to the offense, too.

“Just watching production level, his playmaking ability continues to improve,” Morris said. “I’m very impressed with C.J. and I look forward to watching him grow.”

Which could also make the offense grow in the second half of the season.

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