FAYETTEVILLE — It appears Arkansas’ depth at tight end will be tested.
Veteran tight end Austin Tate has been sidelined after apparently undergoing shoulder surgery. Arkansas would not confirm the injury late Friday night. But, strangely, former Razorback assistant Tim Horton — who now works at Auburn on Gus Malzahn’s staff — shed some light by offering his condolences via Twitter.
“Thoughts and prayers are with @atater87 and family who is on the road to recovery from shoulder surgery,” Horton tweeted. “1st class young man!!”
A Ft. Smith radio station – ESPN Arkansas 96.3 — cited contacts in Tate’s hometown of Harrison as saying the tight end broke his collar bone in practice Thursday night and would be out four weeks.
Tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, who was one of four players available for interviews after Friday night’s practice, also confirmed Tate was injured. He didn’t offer specifics about Tate’s injury, but indicated the Hogs were pressing on without him.
“It was a big loss,” Sprinkle said. “He was a big leader for us.”
Tate is Arkansas’ leading returning tight end after starting eight games and catching 14 passes for 111 yards in 2012. But Arkansas has built up its depth at the tight end position as it prepares for the 2013 season under new coach Bret Bielema.
Former walk-on Mitchell Loewen was the first-team tight end out of spring practice with Tate listed second on the depth chart. Arkansas also has Sprinkle, true freshman Hunter Henry, sophomore Alex Voelzke, Brad Taylor and Demetrius Dean at the position. Most of the group is expected to contribute this season.
Tate was asked about the depth at tight end and what it meant for Arkansas before suffering his shoulder injury.
“We’re going to have stretch-the-field tight ends, we’re going to have run-blocking tight ends,” Tate said. “We’ve got a pretty well-rounded group as far as tight ends. …
“That’s going to be an important part to our offense and our success.”