FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ tight ends are getting schooled in hard knocks now that they are coached by a former offensive line coach.
Cody Kennedy, formerly the offensive line coach at Tulane and Southern Miss, coaches tight ends now for Coach Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks.
Kennedy expects Arkansas’ tight ends to block like true O-lineman, third-year sophomore via Pulaski Academy tight end Hudson Henry said he learned quickly during spring drills. “He came in and he really took control and we really just gathered around him,” Henry said after the Razorbacks practiced Tuesday. “He came from being an O-line coach, so that was a big transition for him. But it’s really not.”
Not with emphasis Pittman places on running the football and the tight end’s block like a tackle role on the edge.
“I think one thing we needed to work on as a group was just physicality and just being real nasty on the field,” Henry said. “That’s something that every day we talk about in our room is finishing everything. Finishing blocks, finishing routes. Being the last guy to put a shove on a guy. Coach Pittman brought him in to help our run game to be a force for good, like I said earlier, as people who are bullies in the run game, and can help out (leading returning running back) Trelon Smith and all those guys running the ball and be able to break away runs and have big plays this season.”
Henry grows into his more physical role, now listed 6-5, 255, and putting the knock on superb safety Jalen Catalon during last Saturday’s scrimmage.
“We don’t want to get bullied,” Henry said. “We want to be the bully.”
Bully for Henry, on that play, Catalon acknowledged Tuesday. “He has definitely gotten stronger,” Catalon said. “I learned that the hard way.” Catalon likens the give and take of his practices against Henry as “iron sharpening iron.”
Since his father, Mark Henry, lettered as a Razorbacks center for Ken Hatfield and Jack Crowe in the late 1980s and early 90s, and oldest brother Hunter, won the Mackey Award as the college football’s best tight end turned NFL star, Razorbacks football had long been a Hudson Henry family affair before ever suiting up as a Hog. It’s been literally so once he became a Hog since older brother Hayden Henry was already on hand playing linebacker.
Hayden finished his senior season in 2020 and was set strictly for grad school but took the option of an extra season in 2021 that the NCAA bestowed on 2020 seniors because of the covid-19 virus circumstances that delayed and shortened the season and for some conferences cancelled it entirely.
“He had his mind made up that he wasn’t going to play, that he was just going to do his MBA and go to school and get a job,” Hudson said. “But I got a call one night and he told me he was coming back. I almost started crying, I was just really happy and so pumped. I got to play with him in high school for two years and I knew I was only going to be able to play with him two years in college. Now it’s going to be three.”
Off last Saturday’s scrimmage Henry vows the offense vows there will be less flag waving. “I think we were just shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties,,” Henry said. “Just mental errors. That’s something this week, we’ve been we’ve been trying to minimize.”
Catalon said defensive coordinator Barry Odom bestowed praise on the defense for their scrimmage last Saturday yet left much room for improvement. “Coach Odom is never a satisfied person,” Catalon said. “He’s always going to nitpick things we can improve on, so that’s what we’re going to emphasize going into this week and pick up on stuff we’ve got to work on before we get to the (April 17) spring game.”
Former walk-on Simeon Blair of Pine Bluff has received high praise as a first-team safety this spring.
Does that surprise Catalon?
“A lot of people that would see him from the outside would say so but for me I’m not.” Catalon said. “Because I’ve seen him from behind the scenes and how much work he has put in in the film room and just seeing him progress and his hunger to get better each and every day.”
Odom sometimes employs six defensive backs simultaneously with, in Catalon’s view, plenty of secondary depth to spare.
“A whole lot deeper I feel and a lot more effective this year,” Catalon said. “Everybody knows what they’re doing and the young guys are starting to pick up on the defense at quicker paces. I think we are deeper and it’s showing this spring so far.”