Texan earns invite to ‘The Opening’

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema watches his team warm up during practice Saturday, April 5, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema watches his team warm up during practice Saturday, April 5, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

DESOTO, Texas - One of the best-looking athletes at Saturday’s Dallas Nike Camp has been talking to Arkansas football Coach Bret Bieliema and is planning to attend the Hogs’ spring game April 26.

Safety Will Sunderland, 6-3, 192 pounds, 4.56 seconds in the 40, could easily be mistaken for a linebacker because of his physical stature, and he’s one of the nation’s top prospects at his position.

“I like their program. I like their academics,” Sunderland said of Arkansas. “I heard they’re one of the top schools in academics, and they’re a pretty good school to go play football at, and they put a lot of people into the pros.”

Sunderland, of Midwest City, Okla., reports scholarship offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Tulsa and Texas A&M.

His performance against the top receivers in the Nike Camp Sunderland an invitation to The Opening, the most prestigious event for high school prospects held at Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., in July. Sunderland is one of seven athletes who participated at the Nike Camp to receive an invitation.

Sunderland, working out on a cloudy morning with temperatures in the 50s, recorded a electronic time of 4.57 seconds in the 40, 4.19 seconds in the pro shuttle, a 33-inch vertical jump and tossed a power ball 30 feet.

“I work out three times a day,” he said. “I work out in the mornings with my school and I work after school and then my dad and I will go to the gym around 7 every day. “

Sunderland, the No. 20-ranked safety by ESPN, said he plans to visit Ohio State as well as Arkansas.

A plus for Arkansas might be the relationship developing between Sunderland and Bielema.

“He’s a real cool guy,” Sunderland said. “He understands where I’m coming from and trying to get to the pros. He’s trying to help me become a better person. I like him.” ‘LIGHTER AND FASTER’

Offensive lineman Madison Akamnonu has nine scholarship offers and said he is hoping to receive one from Arkansas soon.

“I’ve been kind of interested in the Razorbacks since the end of the season,” said Akamnonu, who attends Bowie High School in Arlington, Texas. “My dad said the Razorbacks are a good team, and I’m starting to do some research on them.”

Missouri, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Wake Forest and Houston are among those who have offered. Akamnonu, 6-5, 269, showed well at the Nike Camp against the defensive linemen in 1-on-1’s while being outweighed most of the time.

He said he uses his lack of size to his advantage.

“It’s kind of helpful,” Akamnonu said. “Because I’m able to hook the ends and able to pass pro a little bit easier than everybody else because they have all that weight on them. I’m lighter and faster. When ever it comes to screens and stuff I get to pop with more intensity.”

Akamnonu said he has been communicating with Arkansas running backs coach Joel Thomas have been communicating.

“They said it’s going to be during spring ball,” he said. “They want to come down and size me up.”

If the Hogs do extend an offer, they’ll be in the hunt for Akamnonu’s services.

“They would be high on my list,” he said.

Akamnonu might get a look at a different position in the upcoming spring practices.

“Some people say I’m built for defensive end,” he said. “So my coach said he might put me at defensive end during the spring just to test me out.”


One of the most talented receivers at the Nike Camp was Dahu Green, 6-4, 193, 4.58, of Westmoore High School in Oklahoma City, who has scholarship offers from schools such as Louisville, Kentucky, San Diego State, Illinois and Wake Forest.

He visited Arkansas on March 1 and said he’s hoping the Hogs join his offer list in the future.

“It was beautiful, it’s a big campus,” Green said. “I loved the stadium. I like what they’re about, and how they want to throw the ball more.”

Green, who caught 40 passes for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, posted a 4.58 in the 40, 4.18 seconds in the pro shuttle, a 35-inch vertical jump and tossed a power ball 32 feet.

Green said Hogs receivers coach Michael Smith is keeping him up-to-date on a possible offer.

“He said I’m real high on their board and they like me a lot,” Green said. “He said they just need to evaluate me a little bit more.” E-mail Richard Davenport


Sports, Pages 18 on 04/08/2014