Hogs’ signings beef up defense

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Thursday, December 20, 2012
Martrell Spaight, pictured as a senior at North Little Rock in 2010, received an offer from Arkansas last week.
Martrell Spaight, pictured as a senior at North Little Rock in 2010, received an offer from Arkansas last week.

— Arkansas football Coach Bret Bielema signed five junior college prospects Wednesday, the first day junior college recruits who plan to enroll at midterm could sign national letters of intent.

The Razorbacks signed cornerback Carroll Washington of Salinas (Calif.) Hartnell College, safety Tiquention Coleman of Georgia Military College, offensive lineman Johnathan McClure of Butler County (Kan.) Community College, and linebackers Martrell Spaight of Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College and Myke Tavarres of Weed (Calif.) College of the Siskiyous

Junior College All American LB Martrell Spaight

Junior College All American LB Martrell Spaight works out Tuesday morning at North Little Rock High School. (By Richard Davenport)
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“It’s a dream come true,” Washington said. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be a Razorback.”

Washington, 5-11 , 180 pounds, 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash, chose the Razorbacks over scholarship offers from nine other schools,including Mississippi State, Texas Tech and Rutgers.

Washington and Arkansas fullback Kiero Small are both Baltimore natives and good friends, and Small attended Washington’s signing ceremony in their hometown.

“It’s real special to come out and show me some support,” said Washington, who plans to report to Arkansas on Jan. 10 or 11. “He told me congratulations and gave me a few words - it doesn’t end here, it starts here.”

Bielema had to wait until Wednesday to find out whether Spaight would switch his commitment from Kansas State and sign with Arkansas.

Arkansas’ previous coaching staff passed on Spaight because they believed he was too small to play in the SEC. Spaight, 6-0 1/2, 220, 4.5, received a scholarship offer from Bielema during an inhome visit Saturday evening.

Spaight was a first-team NJCAA All-American and the defensive player of the year in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference.

“He said, ‘Hey, I had a linebacker that was 5-11, ’ ” said Spaight, who graduated from North Little Rock High School. “Pretty much said hewasn’t worried about my size and he’s worried about me as a person and then a player second. For him to come in and tell me that, it really speaks a lot about him.”

Bielema also convinced Coleman, 5-10, 194, 4.47, to switch from Wisconsin to Arkansas after an official visit to Fayetteville last week.

“It’s exciting to be on the SEC level ,” said Coleman, who also had offers from Arizona and Mississippi State. “A lot of the Wisconsin people are upset with me about changing my decision. Most people are extremely excited.”

McClure, 6-4, 305, attended became a two-time juniorcollege All-American afteroriginally going to Kansas State out of high school as a preferred walk-on in 2010. He enrolled at Butler in January 2011 after spending only one semester at Kansas State.

“I know the SEC is a whole different level, and I’m excited to get to it,” McClure said. “At Butler, they taught me everything I know.”

Tavarres, 6-2 1/2, 215, 4.42, chose Arkansas during the summer but also took official visits to Boise State and Arizona when it became obvious there would be a coaching change in Fayetteville.

“I knew they were going through some hard times at Arkansas,” Tavarres said. “I visited other schools, but visiting other schools I found out what those schools had to offer and what Arkansas had, and I still liked Arkansas.”

Sports, Pages 23 on 12/20/2012