FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas offense didn’t turn in the type of high-powered season it expected in 2012, struggling to keep up the prolific pace of the groups that came before them under former coach Bobby Petrino.
It won’t have any trouble producing draft picks the next two days, though.
The Razorbacks, who didn’t have a first-round pick in the NFL Draft for the fifth straight season Thursday, won’t be shut out when the draft resumes with the second and third rounds tonight. In fact, the 2013 Arkansas class may be remembered as having the most offensive players selected in one draft in school history when it’s all over.
Several draft projections believe as many as six Razorbacks — all on offense — will draft picks this weekend. The group is headlined by quarterback Tyler Wilson, but also includes running backs Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson, receiver Cobi Hamilton, tight end Chris Gragg and offensive guard Alvin Bailey.
“It says a lot,” Hamilton said of the potential haul of Razorbacks. “Going back to Petrino and the guys he brought in in recruiting. … Going to get Tyler Wilson out of Greenwood, going to get a kid like me that nobody really offered, going to Warren and getting those three guys (Gragg and 2012 NFL Draft picks Jarius Wright and Greg Childs). … They did a good job of developing players and bringing a lot more out of them than what they expect.”
This Arkansas draft class went 21-5 over a two-year span in 2010 and 2011. They took part in the program’s first Bowl Championship Series game at the end of the 2010 season. They followed it by winning 11 games — which equaled a school record — and finishing in the top five of national polls in 2011.
But their careers also ended with disappointment. Arkansas — despite the offensive talent returning — went 4-8 during a 2012 season marred by drama and injuries.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” said Gragg, a Warren graduate who missed seven games in 2012 because of injuries. “I felt like I was at the top of my game. Everything was started off good for me there personally. But it got bumpy there with wins and then injuries came for a lot of people, including myself.”
But they’ve moved on. The goal since has been proving they’re worth a selection.
Gragg and running back Knile Davis made the biggest impressions of the bunch thanks to their workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine. Each tested near or at the top of their position group during the highly-scrutinized interview process.
The most offensive talent Arkansas has produced in a single draft came in 2008, when five Razorbacks (running backs Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis, wide receiver Marcus Monk and offensive tackle Nate Garner) were picked.
It was part of a draft class of six players, which also is rare in Arkansas’ NFL Draft history. The Razorbacks have had six players drafted only three times since 1982 — in 1989 (seven players), 2004 and 2008 (six apiece).
Gragg and the rest of his teammates are ready to add to the list.