By Otis Kirk Special to the Nate Allen Sports Service
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas completed its second preseason practice on Saturday as the Sept. 4 date with Rice grows nearer.
Following practice Kenny Guiton, who coaches the wide receivers, talked about the competition in the room and the depth behind Treylon Burks.
“Man, I’ve seen great competition throughout the group so far,” Guiton said. “I think competition brings the best out of athletes, so these guys have been working their butts off all summer and they’re getting a chance to showcase it now. They know that competition is throughout the room, so they’re competing. They’re competing and I can’t wait to see it all unfold.”
While there’s great competition there’s no question Burks, the junior from Warren, is among the elite in the nation. Despite that Guiton said there’s some areas he is working with Burks to improve even more.
“Treylon’s an awesome guy, so it’s easy to talk to him about the things that he needs to improve on,” Guiton said. “He already knows what type of player he is. He’s an awesome guy, so him being a bigger guy, you know bigger guys aren’t always the same route runners as those smaller wide receivers. I told him ‘I’m here to help you with that. To help make sure we can take your route running to another level.’
“It’s not like it’s not already great, he’s top three in the country, so you’re obviously doing something right. But I just want to help him take it up another notch. Also, the knowledge of the game. The knowledge of knowing how to read defenses, why we’re calling certain things, where we’re trying to get you on certain plays. Those are the two areas that I’m here to try and take his game to another level, and he’s taken ownership of it. He’s working his butt off, and I think he’ll actually reap the benefits of seeing himself getting better at it now.”
A super senior who is returning is De’Vion Warren. Warren was having a breakout season in 2020 before tearing his ACL. Guiton likes what he has seen so far from Warren.
“De’Vion Warren is a hard worker,” Guiton said. “He’s a hard working guy and you know what you’re going to get out of him. It’s his all at all times, so he’s a fun guy to be around. He’s a fun guy to be around, he wants to be great. Anybody like that, they’re going to work their butt off to do whatever they can.”
Warren was asked how practice was going for him this preseason coming off the serious injury?
“Practice has been good,” Warren said. “I’m coming back from ACL injury. It’s not easy and takes a lot of reps. A lot of treatment feeling out the process getting back to a 100 %. I’ve just got to trust in Dave (Polanski) and trust the strength staff during the process.”
Coming off such a serious injury, Warren talked about what has been the toughest part so far.
“The toughest part has to be the mental side just keeping it up every day,” Warren said. “Taking the steps to feel better, get better and be able to run and jump. Just that mental aspect of every day you aren’t who you used to be. You’ve got to get back to your normal day abilities.”
Arkansas and Guiton are obviously hoping to get the 2019 version of Trey Knox who struggled at times in 2020. As a true freshman in 2019, Knox caught 28 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns. Those stats dropped to seven receptions for 70 yards in 2020.
“He’s doing awesome right now,” Guiton said. “He came in and he wanted to know my thoughts after seeing him all spring to reach that next level. I think he’s a bigger guy, a bigger wideout, so you talk about what bigger wideouts do. They’re big, physical guys who lock up people on perimeter blocking, and if the ball is in the air and it’s contested, it’s one-on-one, instead of it being a 50-50 ball, that’s 80-20. That’s who you have to be as a bigger guy. He’s taking it on and he’s working at it.”
Knox feels good about his progress from the spring and summer to now in preseason.
“Yeah, I think I’ve had a pretty great offseason,” Knox said. “I’ve put on 15 pounds, hovering around 218-220, that area. I feel a lot faster. I feel a lot more explosive. Just trying to figure out how to play at this size. This is all new to me. I haven’t been this big before. So just figuring out my way, trying to figure out my breaks, my route running and all those things has been a pretty fun process putting on weight. Because I never thought I could gain any weight. I’ve been a string bean my whole life. It’s been pretty fun.”
A player who has been drawing praise each day no matter if it’s a coach, quarterback KJ Jefferson or a teammate is Florida State transfer Warren Thompson. The former four-star recruit was highly touted heading to Florida State, but never quite got untracked there. Guiton is hoping he can have success with the Hogs.
“Warren Thompson is doing great, doing awesome,” Guiton said. “You can see his potential and what he can do. Just a little held back right now, he hasn’t been in ball for a while. We’re trying to get him going, get him in shape — he’s in shape, but just trying to get him going where we can really evaluate him. So I’m excited about what he brings to the table. It’s easy to see that he’s got some ability.”
The Hogs will hold their third practice on Sunday afternoon.