FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. | Chris Gragg has a specific, carefully designed role in the University of Arkansas offense, and he plays it well. The affable 6-foot-4 senior tight end provides a big target in the passing game and, coupled with Cobi Hamilton and Brandon Mitchell, creates mismatches for opposing secondaries. Gragg did it so well against Jacksonville State in the Razorbacks' opener (seven catches, 110 yards, two touchdowns) that he was the John Mackey Award's National Tight End of the Week.
Gragg came back off that performance with another seven-catch game (for 83 yards) against Louisiana-Monroe. But in the aftermath of that game, a huge upset loss for the Razorbacks, Gragg has had to take on another role: team leader in tough times.
"We know what people are saying about John L. (Smith, the Razorbacks' interim coach) but here in the Broyles Center, we are behind him 100 percent," Gragg said. "We know our coaches are going to come up with a great game plan, so it is going to be up to us to go out and execute it.
"After the (Louisiana-Monroe) game especially, there were a lot of down faces," Gragg said. "We were very disappointed in ourselves. But we watched the film, we have buried it as a team and I think we are looking forward to Alabama.
"In the team meeting, even before we watched the film, the coaches said to watch it and be critical of ourselves, point the arrow at yourself first, and we have done that."
Gragg acknowledged that the task facing Arkansas would be tougher if quarterback Tyler Wilson cannot see action. Wilson, still dealing with the effects of a head injury, did not practice Tuesday when, according to Razorback offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, backup Brandon Allen got 55 percent of the reps and Mitchell, moving back from wide receiver, got 45 percent.
"Tyler Wilson is our leader," Gragg said. "But if he can't play, we know he is going to be right there leading from the sidelines. He is going to lead as much as he can in that quarterback room getting those other quarterbacks ready to go."
Despite the adversity, Gragg said he is excited about the chance to face No. 1 Alabama.
"They're at the top," Gragg said. "They've won two national championships. They have been to places we want to go and we know we have to beat them to get to those places."
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.
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