On the surface, the departure of wide receiver Mekale McKay looks like a big blow to an Arkansas team in major transition mode.
McKay, who was granted his release from his scholarship by head coach Bret Bielema over the weekend, was Arkansas' top returning receiver heading into the 2013 season. But that doesn't mean this receiving unit is in major trouble at all.
There will be some nice qualities that McKay possesses that the offense will miss. Last season, McKay was Arkansas' second-leading wide receiver with 21 catches for 317 yards and two touchdowns. McKay had all the measurables and ability to be the Hogs' go-to guy this fall, but he battled injuries throughout spring and wasn't listed on the team's two-deep depth chart.
What improvements he could have made this fall with the Hogs, we'll never know, but Bielema has plenty of options to work with at receiver.
Missing someone who stands 6-6 and weighs nearly 200 pounds hurts from a matchup stand point, but Bielema should at least feel good about his team's options. Are any of them on the same level as the receivers who have recently passed through Fayetteville? Not right now, but there's good potential sprinkled all around.
Things will start with senior Demetrius Wilson, who really impressed the staff this spring. Bielema has already said that he was the team's best receiver this spring and was arguably the most consistent player, too. Wilson only caught nine passes in 2012, but he picked up this new offense quickly. He could become quarterback Brandon Allen's top target if he continues on the track he's on.
Wilson won't be a lone by any means. Fellow seniors Javontee Herndon, who was right behind McKay in receiving last season, and Julian Horton, are also in the mix. Herndon displayed a high level of physical play this spring, which should help him fit in nicely in Bielema's more smash-mouth offense. Horton has the speed and elusiveness to be a real playmaker for the Hogs as well.
Sophomore Keon Hatcher will also get a chance to help this offense. Plus, Arkansas should be much more run-oriented this season, which will take some heat off the receivers.
Allen has slowly improved through the early stages of fall camp. While he's certainly getting more comfortable, he's also getting help from his receivers. It would have been nice to have McKay out there, but the Hogs still have a solid group coming back. It hasn't been the most productive unit (Herndon, Horton and Wilson have combined for just 67 receptions), but the skill is there to make this a good group for Allen to grow with.