Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is the host of Recruiting Thursday, a weekly radio show that airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on 92.1 FM in Fayetteville; 93.7 FM in Little Rock; 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home; and 106.9 FM in Arkadelphia.
THE RECRUITING GUY:
Arkansas athletes fare well in Texas
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MELISSA SUE GERRITS 09/06/13 - North Little Rock Charging Wildcats' KJ Hill keeps his eye on the end zone during their game against the Lake Hamilton Wolves September 6, 2013 at North Little Rock High School.
DESOTO, Texas - Approximately 20 athletes from Arkansas took part in the Dallas Nike Football Training Camp at DeSoto High School on Saturday and represented their state well.
The event is one of 14 conducted across the nation and helps determine the 162 athletes invited to The Opening, the premier event for football prospects held in July at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
North Little Rock linebacker Justice Austin had the highest SPARQ rating among the 300-plus participants from across the region participating in the combine part of the camp.
SPARQ - which stands for speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness - is a standardized test for athletic ability
Austin recorded laser time of 4.78 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.10 seconds in the pro shuttle, a 33.1-inch vertical jump and tossed a power ball 41 feet for a 124.08 score.
“I put in the hard work in practice,” said Austin, 6-0 and 244 pounds. “During spring break we would practice and then I went out to my private trainer and we practiced.”
Memphis, Louisiana Tech and Tulsa have shown interest, but other schools might check in on Austin after his performance at the Dallas camp.
Highly touted receiver K.J. Hill of North Little Rock measured 6-0 and weighed 194 pounds. He had the second-highest SPARQ rating with a 123.66. He was timed at 4.61seconds in the 40-yard dash and 3.97 seconds in the pro shuttle and recorded a 35.8-inch vertical jump and a 40-foot power ball toss.
Hill excelled during the afternoon session of 1-on-1 work against defensive backs. That, along with his high SPARQ rating, gives him a good shot of earning an invitation to The Opening.
“I came in confident and didn’t feel like the DBs could hold me,” said Hill, who plans to attend Arkansas’ spring game April 26. “I did pretty good.”
Coaches and officials praised Hill’s showing.
“They said I ran good routes and had good separation from the DBs,” Hill said.
Pine Bluff tight end Will Gragg, tight end/defensive end JaMario Bell of Junction City and tight end/ defensive end Daniel Sprinkle of White Hall stood out among their group. The three showed impressive athleticism and good hands during the afternoon.
Gragg weighed 247 pounds and measured 6-4. Bell, 6-6 and 228,committed to Arkansas last summer and said his pledge is solid.
“It would have to take a coaching staff a lot better than [Arkansas’ coaches],” Bell said. “I don’t think there is one better.”
Several recruiting writers in attendance took notice of Hope sophomore defensive end McTelvin Agim, 6-3 and 247, but Agim wasn’t pleased with his performance.
Agim ran the 40 in 4.88 seconds and the pro shuttle in 4.5 seconds to go along with a 27-inch vertical jump and power ball toss of approximately 36 feet.
“My times were slower than they usually are,” Agim said. “I wasn’t happy with them. I feel like I could’ve done better. “
Agim has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Clemson, Ole Miss and Baylor and has a chance to be one of the more highly recruited prospects in the nation in the 2016 class. He did well in 1-on-1 work against older offensive linemen.
“It’s a chance to get my name out there,” Agim said. “I see a lot of people like four-stars and five stars.”
Smackover sophomore receiver Jordan Jones, 6-1, 170, made one of the best catches of the day when he laid out for an overthrown ball and caught it with his fingertips. The reception drew a roar from the crowd and coaches.
“It was fade out and it was kind of overthrown,” Jones said. “I just put my head down and tried to go catch the ball. It was a nice experience. It was fun.”
Coaches gave him good reviews on his performance.
“It boosted it a lot,” said Jones, who is drawing strong interest from Arkansas and plans to visit Fayetteville on April 19. “Being able to catch the ball and run routes and catch passes from the best, it helped me a lot.”
He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds and the pro shuttle in 4.53 seconds to go along with a 30-inch vertical jump and a power ball toss of 28.5 feet.
Two Arkansas prospects were invited to The Opening. Cornerback P.J. Mbanasor of Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson and safety Will Sunderlund of Midwest City, Okla., were among seven athletes who received invitations.
Mbanasor, 6-2, 185, 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash, has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss and others. He plans to visit Fayetteville in the summer.
Sunderlund, 6-3, 192, 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash, has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Tulsa and Texas A&M. He plans to visit Fayetteville for the spring game April 26.
Email Richard Davenport at
Sports, Pages 22 on 04/06/2014