THE RECRUITING GUY:

Top picks could change for Pine Bluff’s Gragg

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Pine Bluff tight end Will Gragg (right) catches a pass as Bryant linebacker David Nossaman (8) defends during the first quarter Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 in Bryant.
Photo by Jimmy Jones
Pine Bluff tight end Will Gragg (right) catches a pass as Bryant linebacker David Nossaman (8) defends during the first quarter Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 in Bryant.

The world of college football recruiting can change at the drop of a hat. The recruitment of Pine Bluff junior tight end Will Gragg is a prime example.

Gragg announced his top five schools on Feb. 3, but has since added scholarship offers from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Auburn, Texas and Florida State.

His top five was, in no order, Arkansas, Alabama, OleMiss, LSU and Louisville, but it appears it will be revamped in a few months.

“It’s definitely going to change at the end of the summer,” Gragg said. “After the summer, I’ll have a good idea where my head is at and the five schools I want to take official [visits] to.”

Gragg, 6-4, 238 pounds, 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash, received his first offer from Arkansas the summer after his ninth-grade season by showing his nimble feet and sure hands during the Hogs’ camp. He recorded 36 receptions for 367 yards and 6 touchdowns last season.

He originally planned to announce his college decision on his birthday, Sept. 23.

“I talked it over with my family. We decided to push it back because all this stuff happening,” Gragg said. “l have a date now of Nov. 18 that lands on a Tuesday. It’s right after all the big games and right before the conference championships. Hopefully we’ll have a good understanding then.”

Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema and tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. have let Gragg know he’s a priority for the Razorbacks’ 2015 class. He said he talks to Bielema and Lunney about three to four times a week.

“I usually talk to most coaches two to three times a week,” Gragg said.

Gragg said Lunney has been on him since his hiring at Arkansas in January 2013.

“He’s been talking to me ever since he got the job,” Gragg said. “He checks on me and tells me how his family’s doing. He has two little boys and how they are doing. You’ll ask me about my schoolwork, about basketball and baseball. He’s building a relationship basically outside of football.”

In Bielema’s first season, Hogs tight end Hunter Henry was named a freshman All-American and to the freshman All-SEC team. Gragg said Bielema’s background of sending tight ends to the NFL is a plus.

“He brings up the three he’s coached that are nowin the league,” Gragg said of Bielema.

MAKING PROGRESS

One of Arkansas’ top high school playmakers, Highland junior receiver Deon Stewart, didn’t have the type of season he would’ve liked as a sophomore when he recorded 9 receptions for 264 yards and 5 touchdowns.

He more than made up for it last season, when he had 36 receptions for 757 yards (21.03 yards per catch) and 8 touchdowns and 27 rushes for 448 yards (16.6 yards per carry) and 4 touchdowns. His play has earned him scholarship offers from Louisville, Arkansas State and Tulsa, which extended its offer Saturday during a visit.

“It’s really exciting to get noticed by all the schools,” said Stewart, who’s drawing strong interest from Arkansas. “A year ago, I would’ve never see myself getting offers like this.”

Stewart, 6-1, 163, 4.48, said he was low on confidence going into his junior season but received a boost when Highland participated in the Garrett Uekman 7-on-7 tournament at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock last summer. A former Razorbacks quarterback took notice and approached Highland Coach Spencer Hill.

“Clint Stoerner was asking Coach Hill about me,” said Stewart, who recorded 42 tackles and six interceptions as a defensive back. “That gave me some confidence and really got me thinking that I could play.”

Stewart, who said he grew up following the Razorbacks, plans to visit Arkansas on March 1 and hopes to add to his offer list.

“Getting the offer from Arkansas would mean the world,” he said.

Coach Bret Bielema and tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. visited the school Jan. 31 to check on Stewart and athlete Avery Johnson, who also also plans to visit Fayetteville on March 1.

“He was telling how Coach B likes to do things in person,” Stewart said of Lunney. “We were talking about the in-state guys who have offers have been to camp. He said Coach B really wants to get to know me and my mom more.”

Stewart, who returned 11 kickoffs for 378 yards and 2 touchdowns, could end his recruitment should Arkansas offer him a scholarship on his upcoming visit.

“I think if Arkansas offered me, I would verbally commit,” Stewart said. “My mom and I sat down and talked, and she really wants me to stay inside the state.”

E-mail Richard Davenport at rdavenport@arkansasonline.com

Sports, Pages 19 on 02/18/2014

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