Landing Kirkland gives Arkansas’ class big boost

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Offensive lineman Denver Kirkland signed with Arkansas over Florida State and Miami. He said Arkansas linebackers coach Randy Shannon was key in his recruitment.
Offensive lineman Denver Kirkland signed with Arkansas over Florida State and Miami. He said Arkansas linebackers coach Randy Shannon was key in his recruitment.

— Arkansas closed strong on national football signing day with the addition of two highly regarded prospects, offensive lineman Denver Kirkland of Miami and quarterback Damon Mitchell of Egg Harbor City, N.J.

Kirkland, 6-5, 330 pounds, 5.1 seconds in the 40 yard dash, played for Miami Washington High School and is considered one of the top offensive line prospects in the nation and one of the top prospects in Florida.

The Razorbacks beat out Miami, Florida State and a host of others for Kirkland, and he said it was his Jan. 25 official visit to Fayetteville that helped convinced him to choose the Razorbacks.

“I chose to be a Razorback because of the family atmosphere up there,” said Kirkland, who reports a 385-pound bench press and a 475-pound squat. “I had a good time on my visit more so than any other place. That sold me on being a Hog.”

He said Arkansas’ emphasis on personal growth also helped.

“I just want to get away,” Kirkland said. “I feel like I can grow up in Arkansas. Being away from home will make me mature.”

Arkansas linebackers coach Randy Shannon made up a lot of ground in a short period of time with Kirkland.

“Coach Shannon was the only one that sat down and kept it real with me,” Kirkland said. “He gave me the good and the bad, where everybody else was just giving me the good. He was the only one telling the good and the bad. I really respect him for that. He also sat down with me and talked about the academic program at Arkansas.”

CBS Sports Network national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said Kirkland has proven himself against the country’s finest competition.

“He can redirect and he’s an aggressive ballplayer,” said Lemming, who rates Kirkland as a four-star recruit. “He plays in one of the more talented parts of the country. Everyone he goes against is usually a talented player. They have no days off in Dade County.”

Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman - who was the lead recruiter on two other offensive linemen, Dan Skipper, 6-10, 295, 4.97, of Arvada, (Colo.) Ralston Valley and offensive guard Reeve Koehler, 6-3, 315, 5.1, of Honolulu St. Louis - was also a major factor in landing Kirkland.

“I had a better bond with Coach Pittman than with other offensive line coaches,” Kirkland said. “I feel like that was a big part of my decision.”

Kirkland’s mother, Demetrica Roker, made the trip to Fayetteville and approved of the Hogs.

“That was a big impact on my decision, too,” Kirkland said.


Arkansas basketball signee Bobby Portis, a forward at Little Rock Hall, surpassed 1,000 career points when he scored 35 points against Conway in the Warriors’ 75-41 victory Tuesday night.

Portis, 6-9 1/2, 220 pounds, added 16 points in Wednesday night’s 57-30 victory over Little Rock Catholic and has 1,047 points for his career.

He needed just four points to reach the 1,000 going into the Conway game, and he didn’t waste any time.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/KAREN E. SEGRAVE -- 1/22/13-- Hall's Bobby Portis spins around as he moves for the basket during th... + Enlarge

“It was really cool. I scored the first four points really quick and I was like, ‘Dang, that’s a thousand right there,’ ” Portis said. “I just kept scoring and kept scoring. It felt good to do it.”

When Portis scored his fourth point with about five minutes left in the first quarter, the public address announcer recognized his accomplishment but Portis didn’t think about asking for the ball to commemorate his achievement.

“I didn’t need a ball,” Portis said. “I was thankful for getting a thousand points because most players don’t have a chance to do that.”

Portis has shown an outstanding work ethic over the past two years, and the hard work has been recognized. He is rated as the No. 15 recruit in the 2013 class by Van Coleman, the national director of basketball for and scouting service.

“I had to regroup and start working hard to try and be one of the best players in the nation,” Portis said. “I think my hard work and dedication paid off.”

E-mail Richard Davenport at

Sports, Pages 23 on 02/08/2013