2021 PREVIEW: Fellow Hogs to benefit from Burks’ breakout season

Arkansas sophomore WR Treylon Burks / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com

Treylon Burks had the type of sophomore season in 2020 every young player yearns for.

The junior from Warren led the Arkansas Razorbacks in receiving and earned second-team All-Southeastern Conference honors with 51 catches for 820 yards and seven touchdowns.

That was good enough to finish third in the SEC for an average of 91.1 yards per game and fifth in total yards against a loaded, all-SEC schedule.

Burks is certain to be a preseason All-SEC pick when the media gathers in Hoover for SEC Football Media Days, and with the recognition he’s gaining, the young man has a shot at making All-American. Yes, he’s that good.

Hog fans need to enjoy his play this season because there is every reason to believe that Burks will be headed to the NFL after this season.

An injury sidelined the 6-3, 225-pound slot early against Mississippi State, and he was held out of the Auburn loss the following week, but Burks made a huge splash the following week in a victory against Ole Miss with a star-making performance.

Burks stunned the Rebels with a career-high 11 catches for 137 yards and perhaps the best catch of the season with a toe-down, arm outstretched, one-handed, balletic 7-yard touchdown grab that former Razorback head coach Ken Hatfield (1984-89) would have no doubt described as a “thing of beauty.”

The catch, which ESPN’s “Sports Center” honored as the No. 1 Play of the Day drove a stake in the heart of an Ole Miss comeback attempt that had all Hog fans jittery in the fourth quarter of the 33-21 victory. Burks showed his versatility in that game, as well, rushing for a career-high 48 yards.

Burks followed that game up with with seven catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns in a hard-fought 41-32 loss at Texas A&M, and became a marked man for the Hogs.

Everyone now knows Burks’ name, and the humble receiver with big-play ability is the one Razorback going into the season that every Hog opponent knows they have to lockdown one way or the other.

The good thing for the other Razorback receivers is that with Burks drawing so much attention and often drawing double coverage, they should see single coverage more often much like Mike Woods did during the second half of last season.

Woods, the Razorbacks’ second leading receiver last season, defected to Oklahoma following spring practice, taking advantage of the NCAA’s new transfer rule in hopes of chasing down a national title with the Sooners.

His exit opens the door for a number of Razorbacks to step forward to play Batman to Burks’ Superman, if you will.

The most experienced and perhaps likely candidate is De’Vion Warren (5-10, 185), who was crafting a very solid season with 15 catches for 278 yards and three touchdowns in seven game before being sidelined with an injury. Warren is intelligent and explosive which makes him a fit at inside or outside receiver in offensive coordinator Kendal Briles’ offense.

Sophomore John David White (5-11, 180) vaulted into the picture with an outstanding spring of work, earning plaudits as the offenses’ most consistent player, according to Razorback head coach Sam Pittman. The tough-minded Little Rock native is also versatile, being able to play inside or outside. He blocks well and has deceptive speed once he gets moving.

Junior Trey Knox (6-5, 209) did not have the type of sophomore season that he or Hog fans expected. He has had trouble finding separation against the ultra-athletic SEC defenders, but he closed the year stronger and continued to improve in spring practice. No doubt Knox has the raw tools to be a key fixture in the Hogs’ offense, and first-year receivers coach Kenny Guiton is ready to help Knox reach his potential.

Tyson Morris (6-1, 196) had some flashes last season, but may not be fully healthy when the season starts. He missed spring practice, but he will have the chance to add depth when healthy.

Jaquaylyn Crawford (5-10, 175) transferred in from Oklahoma last fall and would have been eligible to play against TCU in the Mecari Texas Bowl last New Year’s Eve if a Covid-19 outbreak among the Horned Frogs hadn’t put the kibosh on the bowl game just prior to the Hogs flying down to Houston. Crawford also plays the slot like Burks, but has the type of play-making ability that will warrant him playing time, if he can do a better job of handling his blocking assignments.

The Razorbacks have a trio of freshmen receivers who will get the opportunity to work themselves into playing time if they are ready for that responsibility in Ketron Jackson Jr. (6-2, 205), Jaedon Wilson (6-3, 175) and Bryce Stephens (6-0, 170).

Burks, Warren, and White look to be starters after strong springs with Knox firmly in the mix, but in Briles up-tempo offense, there will be playing time for other receivers.

It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. Jackson and Wilson went through spring workouts, giving them a leg up on Stephens; however, the freshman that can master the art of blocking the best will likely find his way onto the field the quickest.

No doubt, the loss of a proven, high-end performer like Woods is tough, but on the up side, it opens the door and give players like Knox and Crawford the impetus to embrace to the challenge.

Burks and Warren are proven SEC performers. White had a fine spring. Only time will tell what other Hogs are ready to contribute this season.

* This is the first in a position-by-position series previewing the 2021 Arkansas football team.