Hamilton has had some of his finest moments against the best defenses. Look for his production – and reputation – to exponentially spike this season.
I had an interesting conundrum while writing a recent AS360 piece on the best Razorbacks of the SEC era (i.e., since 1992).
First off, my editor Chris Bahn and I had to figure out our definition for “best.” Obviously, stats matter. So does the ability to play best in the biggest games. But going beyond that we settled on two defining traits:
a) Did he play a large role in the program’s rise in national reputation?
b) In a hypothetical situation, does he give Arkansas the best chance to move the ball?
“It’s late in the fourth quarter and Arkansas is down six points with the ball. All that is between the Razorbacks and the end zone is 30 yards and the best Alabama defense of all time. Of all Arkansas’ SEC players, who do you most trust protecting you? Which running back has the best chance of moving the chains? Who’s going to make the catch, then have the highest chance of breaking free?”
For the most part, I chose players who easily satisfied both these traits. Nobody would argue guys like Darren McFadden, Tyler Wilson or Anthony Lucas fulfill both requirements.
Selecting a receiver to pair with Lucas, though, presents a conundrum.
If you more heavily weigh stats and helping the program rise in national reputation, then Jarius Wright is a logical choice:
He entered as the least-heralded of a trio of receivers who all eventually found their way to the NFL. Wright left Arkansas as the team’s all-time leader in catches (168) and yards (2,934) in and ranks No. 2 in the record books with 24 touchdowns.
And, indeed, Wright was chosen for the AS360 piece.
But, if you give more weight to the second trait, then you have to take into account the physical advantages some of the all-time Arkansas receivers have over the 5-10 Wright. The 6-6 Marcus Monk, in his heyday, presented just about as tough a cover as Arkansas has ever had. But, when taking into account speed, skill set, height and sheer talent, I honestly believe the 6-3 Cobi Hamilton will surpass Wright as a receiver.
He’s been waiting in the wings for three seasons behind Wright, Greg Childs and Joe Adams, content to show only flickers of a fire which will soon engulf the entire SEC. He’s watched his quarterback Tyler Wilson also wait three years before emerging as the best Hog QB of the SEC era. I expect a similar jump in production from Hamilton this season. Once Hamilton has an All-American caliber season under his belt, it will be a lot easier for Hog fans to rank him up there with Lucas.
If you’re going all rolly-eye on me right now, don’t just take my word for it. NFL scouts know Hamilton’s potential too. He’s projected to be chosen higher than any other Arkansas receiver to be taken in recent decades.