FAYETTEVILLE — Flowers alone don’t bloom in the spring then wilt come the fall.
Some college football players do, too.
So while it was promising that Arkansas home-grown fourth-year receiver La’Michael Pettway of Nashville bloomed during Saturday’s Red-White intrasquad spring game in Little Rock, new Razorbacks Coach Chad Morris knows it’s going to take a full summer’s nurturing through the August preseason and into the games that count for Morris to count on Pettway consistently.
For the last three Arkansas seasons under former Coach Bret Bielema, Pettway has been a man of large promise, 6-2, 225 with speed, but not so large delivery.
Pettway redshirted as a freshman in 2015, caught just one pass in 2016, a 10-yarder in the season-opener against Alcorn State.
Last season played nine games for the 4-8 Hogs, Pettway caught 6 passes for 92 yards, including one 25-yarder.
There were also some drops and routes not run completely.
No doubt Morris has reviewed film of that past.
And he has seen much of Pettway’s inconsistencies during the early spring.
However last Saturday Pettway consistently excelled. From quarterbacks Ty Storey and Cole Kelley, Pettway caught a game-leading 6 passes for 91 yards. Spectacularly, he caught a 34-yard pass from Kelley, successfully hanging on to the ball despite a thunderous hit from safety Micah Smith.
“I thought Pettway made some plays today and that was really good to see” Morris said.
Why hasn’t that been seen more consistently?
“I'm going to go ask him that,” Morris said. “I’m trying to figure that out, too. He definitely shined today. He's been good at times and inconsistent at times. Today, he chose that it was time to be consistent.”
If Pettway ever gets consistently on course, he could be consistently great.
“He's big, he's physical, he runs well, he's got good ball skills,” Morris said. “It's time for him to be a guy. I said it in my pregame talk, I want to find guys that can make plays in a game situation. Who is that going to be in at that wide receiver position? Each day at practice it's been somebody different and we need to have some consistency in that.”
Morris didn’t just have a pregame talk but reportedly an earlier tweet on the same subject.
“I saw the message on Twitter about him addressing the receivers, trying to find out who's going to be that guy,” Pettway said during Saturday’s postgame at War Memorial Stadium. “I took that to heart personally.”
It showed in that catch from the Kelley pass hanging on while catching hell from Smith’s hit.
Impressive, but one great catch does not a great receiver make, Morris implied.
“I'm glad he made the play, but he's got a scholarship to come out here and make these plays,” Morris said. “That’s why he’s got a scholarship. He’s got to make those plays now. You’re going to get hit one way or the other. You might as well catch it.”
Media asked Pettway to describe the play.
“It was me and the corner, one on one,” Pettway said. “Then out of my peripheral I saw the safety coming over to the middle of the field. I saw they had rolled down. It was one high safety and he came over. I keyed in on the ball and I just knew I had to make a play.”
Did he know Smith’s hit imminent?
“I didn't but I did,” Pettway said.
Joyfully, he held the ball aloft to show officials and the crowd and apparently especially the secondary that he held on despite Smith’s smash.
“I was just messing with the DBs,” Pettway said. “It’s all about competition. Just playing loose and having fun.”
After all, football is just a game and having fun is part of playing it. But becoming more consistent is serious business.
“I've just got to continue to do what I've been doing in practice,” Pettway said. “Just take it over the game.”
Both Storey of Charleston, redshirting as a 2015 freshman with Pettway, and third-year sophomore Kelley of Lafayette, La. know what they have if Pettway keeps catching on.
“He's a big physical guy who can get open,” Storey said. “So it's awesome to throw it to a guy like that.”
How awesome, Kelley believes, is up to Pettway.
“I mean, he’s a beast,” Kelley said. “I’ve said this before, when he wants to be great, he is.”