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Voelzke impressing new staff at Arkansas

By Jimmy Carter jcarter@news-journal.com
March 17, 2013 at 10 p.m.

Alex Voelzke was faced with being a walk-on who had to prove himself to a new football coaching staff at Arkansas this offseason.

No problem.

The Longview native and Spring Hill graduate made an impact on the field as a redshirt freshman last fall and has impressed new coach Bret Bielema and his staff since they arrived on campus in December.

The Razorbacks started spring practice Sunday, but Voelzke and Mitchell Loewen, another walk-on tight end, had already turned heads this offseason for their work in the weight room.

"Those two are turning into guys that are really starting to flourish," strength coach Ben Herbert said. "It's going to be exciting to see if they can carry it over onto the field."

Voelzke contributed on the field last year.

He entered the season as the No. 3 tight end on the depth chart and was a key contributor on special teams. He also played in two-tight end sets when starter Chris Gragg struggled with injuries.

He played in all 12 games and caught two passes for 28 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown catch against Ole Miss. Gragg has graduated, giving Voelzke and Loewen an opportunity to earn more playing next season.

"I can't say enough about those guys," Herbert said. "We've had a lot of walk-ons in my past that I've seen be successful. And those guys right out of the gate, I didn't know they were walk-ons. But they've made a difference. I think they have very bright futures."

Four former Wisconsin tight ends are on NFL rosters after playing for Bielema and training with Herbert. The strength coach has been pleased with what he's seen from the Razorbacks' tight ends and linemen.

"At tight end and the offensive line, I tell those guys you're going to set the table for success for what you want to do on the football field in the weight room," Herbert said. "Initially my opinion is those guys weren't real comfortable training their lower body and doing some things that were new. But talk about embracing the weight room.

"It's going to be fun to continue to watch those guys up front develop. We still have a ways to go, but they've attacked everything."

<em>(Follow Jimmy Carter on Twitter @jicartersports)</em>



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