Losing Hunter Henry was a sad but expected situation. He’s the best tight end in the nation, so of course he’s going pro. But who do the Hogs have that can step up and take his place?
The talent that we witnessed on our Arkansas Razorback football team this year was outstanding. These are guys that have been built into the Bret Bielema system since their arrival in Fayetteville, and now we get to see them go off and do better things. One such man was All-American Tight End Hunter Henry, who announced today that he would be entering the 2016 NFL Draft. This really came as a surprise to no one, but it was still hard receiving the news from a guy that has been the light of our offense through a lot of dark times.
Henry wrote and released a letter titled “My Decision” to the Arkansas nation thanking the fans and faculty for all they’ve done for him.
"“After a great deal of prayer and reflection, I have made the very difficult decision to pursue my childhood dream and enter the 2016 NFL Draft. I have grown so much as a person and player these past three years at the University of Arkansas. I have enjoyed my experience more than I could have ever imagined. As I move on to pursue my dream of playing in the NFL, I want to express my deepest thanks first and foremost to God for blessing me with the incredible opportunity to play football at the University of Arkansas.I also want to thank Jeff Long and the entire athletic department, Coach Bielema, Coach Enos, Coach Lunney, my incredible teammates, my high school coach Kevin Kelley, and last but certainly not least, the entire Razorback Nation for giving this Little Rock native the experience of a lifetime.I will deeply miss being a part of the Arkansas football team next year, but I will always be a part of the Razorback family! I very much look forward to returning to Fayetteville to earn my degree and joining the rest of my family who are proud University of Arkansas graduates.God Bless and Go Hogs!”"
With Hunter Henry leaving us, it’s only natural to wonder who will be filling in for him at the Tight End position in 2016. It will be extremely difficult for anyone to step into the role that Henry has created in his three seasons with Arkansas, but there are a few guys that could get that opportunity next fall. Here’s a list of who the next guys to step up could be, starting with the obvious choice.
Option 1: Jeremy Sprinkle
Obviously, Sprinkle is going to be the go to man for the 2016 season. Throughout this year he’s already shown that he’s capable of doing great things and making big plays. His ginormous strides could also work as a metaphor for the ginormous strides he’s made in this season and heading into next season. Sprinkle couldn’t make it in on the action in his freshman or sophomore year, as he never got above 100 yards and only recorded 1 touchdown in the two year span. But 2015 is when the big man stepped up. Jeremy made 27 grabs for 389 yards and 6 touchdowns throughout 2015, including a career high 81 yards in the Liberty Bowl this past Saturday. It’s easy to say the 6-6 255 pound soon-to-be Senior will continue his mark in 2016.
But will he be the only one?
Option 2: CJ O’Grady
After Sprinkle the rest of the Tight End spots are really a toss up. The Arkansas Razorback offense, like most, revolves around two tight ends having production throughout the year. So with Jeremy Sprinkle being the frontrunner, there needs to be a second guy in there. That’s where CJ O’Grady could definitely come in. He graduated high school right here in Fayetteville and will be returning for his sophomore season in 2016. McGrady came out of high school as a four star recruit, and was ranked by ESPN as the third best tight end in the nation. CJ collected over 1,500 yards receiving and 25 touchdowns in just his last two years at Fayetteville. If this kid can stay out of trouble, he could be a force in his time at Arkansas.
Option 3: Will Gragg
It’s been awhile since we heard the name Gragg here as Razorback fans. Chris Gragg was a key tight end at Arkansas from 2008-2012 before being drafted by the Buffalo Bills. Now it’s his brother Will Gragg who is stepping onto the turf as a Razorback. Will Gragg is a Pine Bluff native who the Hogs had been recruiting for years before signing him. Gragg recorded almost 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns in his final two years in high school (One season at Pine Bluff, one at Dumas). Although the stats aren’t as flashy as O’Grady’s, Gragg is a very bright young man who has just as much talent as any tight end. There is no doubt that he will develop into a very useful tight end at Arkansas
Some could say that Hunter Henry was a rare force of greatness. The things he did here at Arkansas were so unique, and on a whole different caliber than tight ends in Arkansas’ history. Replacing him is going to be a tough job, but there are many more qualified players, more than I mentioned, that are on our roster who have the ability to step up in that critical tight end spot.
We still have plenty of time before the 2016 season, so we can only hope for an injury free offseason that leads to another successful Razorback season.
Woo Pig and thank you Hunter Henry.