FAYETTEVILLE – Now that he’s earned his way on campus with grades transferring from Coffeyville Community College to this underway session of University of Arkansas summer school, the next thing Dominique Reed must earn for the Razorbacks is a position.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and staff not only want the 6-4, 180, Camden native and former Camden Fairview star earning a wide receiver spot, but running away with it.
They have got a main man wideout in Keon Hatcher, the senior leading receiver from 2014 with 43 catches for 558 yards and six touchdowns, and a host of different receivers that can fill different niches, but they haven’t had the complementary breakaway sprinter receiver whose deep-threat speed keeps defenses honest down after down.
Oh, they have one with sprinter’s speed, Razorbacks track sprinter Eric Hawkins. But, Hawkins so far hasn’t had displayed the consistency to play many downs. Coming off his best spring, Hawkins should get increased chances this August preseason, but Reed’s 4.3 speed unquestionably makes him the coveted new kid on the block. He is the one Bielema, recruiting coordinator E.K. Franks and receivers coach Michael Smith on last February’s national signing date claimed was No. 1 on Arkansas’ needs board all along, as nationally touted North Little Rock receiver K.J. Hill signed with Ohio State.
New offensive coordinator Dan Enos had barely joined the staff in February but already had seen enough film of Reed to include him among the 2015 fall plans.
“He is going to fit right in there because he can run,” Enos said. “He can stretch the field and he has got good size and good ball skills.”
Good enough this past season at Coffeyville to catch 56 passes for 979 yards for a 17.5 average per catch with 16 touchdowns.
“They all have to earn everything they get,” Enos said back on the Feb. 4 signing date. “But he has a chance to be a difference-maker with his ability. We have to get him in here, get him up to speed and get him to learn very quickly what we are doing and then we are going to have to give him opportunities to stretch the field and catch the football.”
Although he can’t be on the field Arkansas coached by coaches until the August preseason practices, Reed can learn plenty from fifth-year senior starting quarterback Brandon Allen and Hatcher and veteran tight ends Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle during the summer conditioning and “voluntary” drills that the Razorbacks, and most every college team in the country, undertake from late May or early June through the end of summer school.
“Once we get him here on campus we’ll force feed him and hopefully get him ready to play ball,” receivers coach Michael Smith said.
Bielema emphatically stated he coveted no receiver like he coveted Reed.
“Dominique was the No. 1 receiver on our board from Day One because of his speed,” Bielema said. “We needed to have something that we didn’t have, in Dominique’s ability to run and catch and his height. I have seen him listed anywhere from 6-2 to 6-5. I don’t think he’s 6-5 but he’s not 6-2. He’s in that nice range. He has got really long arms so that part was critical for us. He can change the game for us instantly.”
Some have the feet threatening to change the game instantly but not the hands often to make good on the threat.
Reed, Bielema said, catches what his feet frees him to catch.
“Just the softness in his hands and his ability to catch the ball is borderline freaky.” Bielema said. “Plus he’s from the state of Arkansas, which just adds that value that much more. It meant a lot to him to commit to us.”
Franks also asserted the importance of Reed wanting to come home to play for the Hogs and also stressed the importance that Reed previously called Coffeyville home.
Another Arkansan returned come via Coffeyville Community College, graduated to the NFL linebacker Martrell Spaight of North Little Rock, led the SEC in tackles in 2014.
“That kid wants to be a Razorback,” Franks said. “It’s in his blood. And let’s be real. We had some success there with Spaight, so let’s keep it going!”