All it took was one game during Jack Kraus' junior season to convince Bentonville Coach Barry Lunney that the tight end could compete at the NCAA Division I level.
The Tigers were playing South Panola, Miss., in a nonconference game Sept. 14, 2012, and Lunney decided to try to do something different with Kraus in the Tigers' 41-6 victory.
"We used him as a lead blocker," Lunney said. "They had athletic linebackers. We knew he was special, but going against those guys, you saw his level of play increase and his athleticism."
Kraus, 6-5, 260 pounds, was the only tight end signed by Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema in the 2014 class. A three-star prospect according to Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com, Kraus caught 19 passes for 242 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2012 and finished with 12 receptions for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns as a senior last season while leading Bentonville to the Class 7A state championship.
Kraus said playing at Bentonville should help with his transition to Arkansas.
"Bentonville has a very strong system," Kraus said. "It's very similar to lot of Division I programs."
Kraus was a three-year starter at Bentonville and a member of the 2013 preseason Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas team. He chose Arkansas over scholarship offers from Illinois and Utah State and drew interest from Oregon, Alabama and LSU.
Lunney said Kraus' knowledge of the game was a plus for the Tigers.
"He's big and physical," Lunney Sr. said. "We knew he was going to get bigger. His footwork was excellent. He caught the ball exceptionally well."
Kraus joins a tight end group that features sophomores Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle as well as junior Alex Voelzke and senior A.J. Derby.
"We're excited about that group top to bottom," said Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr., who was a Bentonville assistant under his father before joining the Razorbacks staff after the 2012 season.
Kraus said he is looking forward to playing alongside Henry.
"He's someone I've looked up to," Kraus said. "There's no one I'd rather be competing with. There's a lot of talented guys, one of the most talented groups in the SEC.
Lunney Jr., who was Bentonville's offensive coordinator during Kraus' sophomore and junior seasons, said he plans to get a good evaluation of Kraus during fall camp, which opens Monday.
"I think you're looking for out of him what you're looking for out of any true freshman coming in," said Lunney Jr., who was Kraus' lead recruiter. "We've seen what he can do in the offseason. We've been around him a little bit with the new rule change. Obviously, I've know him [coming from Bentonville]. I know who he is.
"There is no doubt in my mind he belongs at this level. As he begins to grow, he's going to help this program win football games."
The Razorbacks went 3-9 last season, including an 0-8 mark in the SEC, and Kraus said he knows it will take time to build Arkansas back into a winning program under Bielema.
"My goal is to make it to a bowl game first," Kraus said. "There's steps in the process: Win games every day and grow every day. I want to continue to get better every day."
Information for this article was contributed by Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Sports on 08/02/2014
Print Headline: Lunney approved