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:
Razorbacks put a full-court press on Hill, Gragg
North Little Rock receiver K.J. Hill runs after a catch during the team's spring football game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Jaison Sterling - Sterling Imageworks
Arkansas was hoping to make a big impression on North Little Rock receiver K.J. Hill and Dumas tight end Will Gragg during their weekend visits, and it appears the Razorbacks did just that.
Hill, a 6-1, 192 pounds, 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and Gragg, 6-4, 247, 4.8, have heard about the importance of staying home from Coach Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks staff, but a couple of others chimed in during their visit as well.
Mike Anderson, Arkansas' men's basketball coach, and Jimmy Dykes, the women's basketball coach, spoke to both prospects and reiterated what they had already heard.
"They were expressing this is home," Hill said. "They're trying to win championships in every sport, and it starts with the in-state [prospects]."
Hill said Anderson and his wife let him know their home would be open to him.
"If you need something, just go to the house and get a cooked meal," Hill said. "His wife said it would just be like home, like my second mom."
Dykes told Gragg why he and Hill should be Hogs.
"It means more to the people of Arkansas that you stay home and build something from the ground up and you can put your stamp on it," Gragg said.
Hill was the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's All-Arkansas Preps offensive player of the year after recording 63 receptions for 1,143 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. Arkansas, Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State are among the approximately 20 schools that have offered his a scholarship.
Bielema told Hill that he stayed up late the night before they arrived thinking about them.
"He said he stayed up to 1 o'clock trying to get an idea for what to do to get us sucked into Arkansas," Hill said.
Both were impressed by what they saw at Saturday's scrimmage.
"Yeah, it's tremendous progress with the way they're going about their business and speed of play," said Gragg, who arrived Friday evening and left about noon Sunday. "They're still running that traditional smash-mouth football, but they speeded up the tempo."
Hill said he could see a big difference, too.
"I could tell a difference in the practice, the intensity the players are having," Hill said. "Like that winning mentality, I could see it."
Gragg reports scholarship offers from across the nation, including Arkansas, Texas, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Oregon. He said he plans to make official visits to Louisville (Sept. 1), Texas (Sept. 6), Ole Miss (Oct. 4), Alabama (Oct. 18) and LSU (Nov. 8).
Gragg and Hill have made several visits to Fayetteville, and Gragg said the weekend trip helped the Razorbacks' chances.
" They're really making a big impact on us," Gragg said.
Hill rode up Saturday with his mother and step-father and traveled back home with Gragg. He hung out with Arkansas receivers Jared Cornelius and Jojo Robinson and former North Little Rock teammate Juan Day, a freshman running back for the Razorbacks.
"They were telling me how much help they needed at receiver," said Hil, who plans to take official visits to Ohio State (Sept. 6), Notre Dame (Oct. 4), Florida (Oct. 11), Arkansas (Nov. 15) and Alabama (Nov. 29).
Gragg, whose brother Chris is a former Arkansas tight end and is now with the Buffalo Bills, said he understands the importance of staying in the state.
" I've seen it firsthand with Chris and Jay [Jarius Wright]," Gragg said. "All those guys were treated like heroes whenever they come back. They're not just talking to talk. I've seen that firsthand."
Hill said the Razorbacks are recruiting him the hardest of the schools trying to land him.
"Coach Bielema told me he's been telling all of the coaches they need to talk to me everyday, and that's what I've been doing," Hill said. "Every day I've been talking to Arkansas."
WORKING ON VISIT
Arkansas is one of four schools Sarasota (Fla.) Riverview running back Karan Higdon plans to officially visit.
Higdon, 5-9, 190 pounds, 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash, plans to take an official visit to Iowa (Sept. 13) and plans visits to Fayetteville, Kentucky and South Florida.
"The really big game-changer is going to be when I visit the schools," said Higdon, who is orally committed to South Florida. "It's kind of hard to make a commitment to a school I've never ever seen other than photos. I just want to see it in person and see how I personally feel when I step on campus."
Higdon, who has a 4.0 grade-point average, has scholarship offers from Arkansas, South Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee, Wake Forest and others. He is talking with Arkansas running backs coach Joel Thomas and is trying to set up a visit.
He rushed 108 times for 967 yards and 15 touchdowns after sitting out two games because of an injury and having another game canceled.
Higdon, who ran the 100 meters in 10.80 seconds and the 200 meters in 22.9 seconds this spring, said his mother plans to accompany him on his visits.
"She honestly just wants to see me happy," Higdon said. "She just wants to see an environment that I can adapt to,"
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Sports on 08/19/2014