FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Ryan Mallett is preparing for the upcoming season amid a steady buzz of Heisman Trophy hype. Meanwhile, the Arkansas receivers he'll throw to are struggling to crack the all-conference team.
As far as Greg Childs is concerned, something's wrong with that picture.
"It's not really my place to say whether they were right or wrong, but I just feel that they just kind of underrated us," the wide receiver said. "When I didn't make it, I had people all on Facebook, writing me, writing on my walls, calling me."
Childs caught 48 passes for 894 yards last season, and he's not the only Razorback who produced strong numbers. Joe Adams and Jarius Wright were also productive, and they're all ready to team up again with Mallett, who broke several school passing records in 2009. Although the wide receivers are somewhat anonymous nationally, that could quickly change if Arkansas performs as expected.
Childs, Adams and Wright are all juniors, and they've received regular playing time since arriving on campus. When Mallett took over the starting quarterback spot last year, the team's passing game went to another level, and those three receivers combined for 118 receptions for 2,143 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Adams was a second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection by The Associated Press last year, despite missing three games after suffering a mild stroke in the middle of the season. Aside from that, though, accolades have been rare for this group of receivers.
Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams made the coaches' preseason all-conference team last month, but none of the wide receivers was picked for the first or second team. When media attending the conference's media days voted, the same thing happened.
"We're unhappy with it, but I guess that's what they think," Wright said. "We're just willing to work hard and show them different."
The Arkansas receivers each has his own strengths. At 6-foot-3, Childs is the most physically imposing, while Wright earns points for his understanding of the offense and sharp route running. Wright caught 41 passes for 681 yards last season.
The shifty Adams caught 29 passes for 568 yards, and he impressed with his toughness after returning from the stroke.
"He's the best double-move guy in the country. That's hands down, no doubt about it — the best I've ever seen at double moves," Mallett said. "Once he gets the ball, it's fun to watch him. I like throwing it to Joe, because when he catches it, something exciting's going to happen."
Sophomore Cobi Hamilton, who played at the same high school as Mallett in Texarkana, Texas, is also working his way into the mix.
With the season about a month away, the Razorbacks have room for improvement. Arkansas ranked at the bottom of the SEC last season in converting third downs, a sign that the offense was too reliant on big plays.
"Coach wasn't happy last year with the third-down conversion rate. If you're going to be good at that, you've got to be a good intermediate-route team," wide receivers coach Kris Cinkovich said. "Being great against man coverage is a point of emphasis."
Adams expects opponents to try to make Arkansas move the ball slowly.
"Defenses like to drop their coverages deep, so you can't go deep," he said. "So you have to hit the check-downs. We've been working really hard on that."
If the Razorbacks can become more productive with that aspect of the game, they'll be difficult to stop — even for the SEC's powerhouses.
Then maybe these Arkansas receivers will enjoy a little more recognition.
"Our goal is to be on the stuff at the end of the season, which really matters," Cinkovich said. "That's the performance- or result-based stuff. As the SEC games get here, I'm certainly sure there's something to be said about it."