Arkansas’ Horton, Herndon eager to shine at WR
Julian Horton took a deep breath and exhaled when asked about
his relief this season at Arkansas.
There was just no simple answer for the Razorbacks senior wide
receiver, who has waited patiently over the last three seasons to
see extended time on the field.
Horton is part of an Arkansas receiving corps this season that
has paid its dues over the last few years. The Razorbacks have sent
four wide receivers to the NFL after the last two seasons, leaving
behind an unproven group that would love nothing more than to
follow in the talented footsteps of its former teammates this
season under first-year coach Bret Bielema.
Following the departure of leading receiver Cobi Hamilton to the
Cincinnati Bengals, along with the transfer of Mekale McKay and
injuries to others, Arkansas is expected to begin the season with
receivers who accounted for only 50 of the team’s 272 catches last
It’s a far cry from the last few years when the Razorbacks
fielded one of the top receiving groups in the country, though
Horton is hardly ready to concede a dropoff of any kind from the
group that remains.
”There are so many emotions bottled up into one,” Horton said.
”I’m just thankful, excited and anxious to have the opportunity my
senior year to finally play and show what I can do.
”When you come to college, you expect to sit for a while behind
some guys, but we just had a crazy run of great guys.”
The run of talent Horton spoke of included Hamilton, who had 90
catches for 1,335 yards last season and was drafted by the Bengals
in the sixth round. He also was referring to the year before that,
when Arkansas had three receivers (Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and
Joe Adams) taken in the fourth round.
The talent provided the Razorbacks with more than their share of
highlight moments during a run to the Sugar Bowl following the 2010
season – and a trip to the Cotton Bowl the year after that.
Arkansas’ coaches are now hoping it also provided a blueprint of
success for the former understudies, a group Bielema called ”very,
”They’re not here to lean on anymore,” Horton said. ”Now it’s
on us. Now we’ve got to be the people that step up and make plays
for this team to win games. It’s a great opportunity and a great
Senior Javontee Herndon enters this season as the Razorbacks
leading returning receiver after a 21-catch effort last season
while playing in Hamilton’s shadow. His catches last season equaled
that of McKay, though the talented sophomore transferred to
Cincinnati shortly after the beginning of preseason camp.
Adding to Arkansas’ depth concerns at the position, senior
Demetrius Wilson suffered a season-ending knee injury last week.
Also, Bielema said Wednesday that sophomore D’Arthur Cowan suffered
a foot injury in practice and is expected to miss action while
recovering from surgery.
Herndon and Horton are the two likeliest to have breakout
seasons for the Razorbacks, both because of their experience and
the ability to stretch the field they’ve shown during the
preseason. The two realize their combined 35 catches from last year
will lead to some doubts about whether they can take over a leading
role, but they share little of that doubt.
”I don’t feel like we have any pressure at all,” Herndon said.
”We’ve been waiting so long for this opportunity, so we’re just
ready to go out and prove we can be the same playmakers that Cobi
Hamilton, Jarius Wright and all those guys were.”
Bielema hired former Kansas State assistant coach Michael Smith
as Arkansas’ wide receivers coach following last season. Smith, a
record-setting receiver in his own right while with the Wildcats,
said experience is the key to success for Horton and Herndon in the
That, and playing like they have something to prove – which they
both know they do.
”The one thing you can’t coach is experience, and these guys
have played in the SEC at a high level,” Smith said. ”They
understand what it takes to win in the SEC.”