Pittman’s recruiting could make future NFL Drafts more interesting to Hog fans

In lieu of any real sports to watch, I joined 15.6 million others to watch a decent portion of the NFL Draft last week.

Was it scintillating viewing?

No, not really. It was rather tedious. There just wasn’t enough Razorback flavor to keep me interested. Maybe first-year head coach Sam Pittman and his staff’s recruiting and coaching will remedy that in the near future.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was about as boring as plywood, announcing every pick. The most exciting thing he did all weekend was sit down in a comfortable chair as the third round started Friday night. I was afraid he was going to doze off. I did.

Couldn’t the NFL have hired Chris Rock or Bill Murray to come in and liven things up? Heck, I would have taken Stephen A. Smith. At least his loud braying would have startled me awake a few times.

The gaggle of experts on the Zoom call all knew their stuff, but frankly my only true interest in the draft was to see if and when any Razorbacks would be taken

I have to admit I’d already checked out Friday night to do a bit of reading when Denver selected former Razorback defensive linemen McTelvin Agim with the 95th pick in the third round. I found out about it from a post by a local Broncos fan on Facebook right before I went to bed.

Another check of Facebook on Saturday let me in on former Razorback defensive back Kamren Kurl’s selection by the Washington Redskins as the 216th pick in the seventh round.

Those two Hogs were among the truly impressive 63 SEC football players taken in this year’s draft, just one shy of the SEC’s all time record. It’s the 14th consecutive year the SEC has had the most players selected, and the league set records with having the most first round picks ever at 15 and the most top-10 pice ever at 6. The refugees from LSU’s national title team gave the Tigers claim to the most players drafted in a single year at 14. So, again it was a big year for the SEC.

From a Razorback standpoint, the most positive nugget I can glean is that’s 61 fewer stud athletes the Hogs have to compete against whenever the college game is back on the field, although chances are the SEC will lead the way with players drafted next year, too. At 14 years, it’s become a tradition.

I’d like to say it was surprising that no other Hogs were taken in the draft, but things went about as expected.

I thought some team might take a chance on former Hog tight end C.J. O’Grady (6-4, 256) on potential alone, but his off-the-field issues as well as his perceived lack of desire to play the game certainly hurt his chances. As of Tuesday morning, he had yet to ink a free-agent deal.

Hopefully, he’ll get a shot this year, but O’Grady’s story is developing into a cautionary tale. There is no doubt that he has NFL-level potential, but his lack of focus and desire never allowed him to be all that he could have been on the college level. Despite that, he leaves Arkansas with the most touchdown catches (12) of any tight end.

O’Grady had lived in the doghouse at Arkansas under head coaches Bret Bielema and Chad Morris and was basically booted from the team following the Hogs’ loss to Alabama last year for not wanting to go to rehab and meetings and not wanting to practice.

I guess he wanted one of those Dennis Rodman “vacations” that those who are watching the Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance” heard about on Sunday night?

Some fans thought there would be a chance for O’Grady to rejoin the Razorbacks for the final two games of the season when Morris was fired and Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney was promoted to interim head coach.

When asked whether O’Grady would rejoin the team, Lunney offered a very quick and telling “No,” and swiftly moved to the next question.

At that point, it became clear that O’Grady’s road to the NFL would be a tough one. The NFL questions college coaches, high school coaches, trainers and staff about the attitudes, antics, and efforts of players they are interested in. Those interviewed are truthful in their assessments because if they are not, they won’t be listened to in the future when they have a player they want to help.

I have to assume that Morris, Bielema, Lunney and Arkansas’ other staffers were truthful about O’Grady’s very spotty performances on and off the field when interviewed, and that likely did not help O’Grady’s efforts to get drafted.

Again hopefully, O’Grady will get a chance somewhere, and hopefully he has learned and matured enough to make something out of the opportunity. He has skills and size, but he will be competing against men whose desire is off the charts. O’Grady will have to match them to find a roster spot with his name on it.

I enjoyed watching O’Grady dominate with the Fayetteville Bulldogs, and rooted for him when he earned playing time as a Razorback. I hope to have the chance to see him play on Sundays.

The good news is that several other Razorbacks did sign free-agent deals. Offensive guard Austin Capps signed with the Atlanta Falcons, defensive lineman T.J. Smith with the Los Angeles Chargers, running back Devwah Whaley with the Cincinnati Bengals, De’Jon Harris with the New England Patriots, and tight end/defensive end Chase Harrell with the San Francisco 49ers. It would be great to see all of those ex-Hogs stick in the NFL and make contributions.

Maybe the best news for the’ future of the Razorback program was seeing three of new head coach Sam Pittman’s former Georgia offensive linemen get the NFL call.

Both of his starting offensive tackles went in the first round last Thursday with Andrew Thomas going fourth to the New York Giants, and Isaiah Wilson going 29th to the Tennessee Titans. Then guard Solomon Kindley went 111th in the fourth round to the Miami Dolphins.

Pittman recruited and coached all three of them. Down the road, it will be great to see multiple Razorbacks be taken in the first four rounds. Hopefully Pittman and his new staff will make that happen, and then the NFL Draft will be truly interesting to Hog fans.