Zebras fearsome foursome to be pursued by many

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014
Pine Bluff tight end Will Gragg (7) during an Oct. 4, 2013 game at Hornet Stadium in Bryant.
Photo by Jimmy Jones
Pine Bluff tight end Will Gragg (7) during an Oct. 4, 2013 game at Hornet Stadium in Bryant.

Pine Bluff Coach Bobby Bolding has been a head coach for 16 of his 25 years in high school coaching, but he has yet to see one with as much talent as next year’s junior class.

The Zebras have four legitimate major-college prospects: tight end-defensive end John Tate, safety David Beasley, quarterback and defensive back Ladarius Skelton and running back Romar Reades. Tate, Beasley and Reades were named to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Super Sophomore team.

Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema and Alabama Coach Nick Saban were among the coaches who visited the school during the contact period in December and January.

“We’ve had good classes come through, but nothing like this,” Bolding said. “They’re good kids. They’re good students, and they’re easy to coach too.”

Tate, 6-3, 240, already has scholarship offers from Ole Miss, Louisville and Arkansas State and is drawing interest from Arkansas and Alabama.

“He’s a warrior,” Bolding said. “He’s obviously got the frame and he likes to mix it up and he’s not afraid of contact. He’s an extremely hard worker and meticulous about trying to do it the wayit’s coached to the point that he gets upset when he doesn’t do it right. He’s a baller.”

Ta t e r e - corded 27 tackles, including 2 1/2 sacks, 8 tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hurries this past season. His father John was listed at 6-7 while playing basketball for Arkansas State in the late 1980s.

“His mother is probably 6-2,” Bolding said. “So he’s not done growing at all. He may end up being a 6-6 kid someday.”

Beasley, 6-2 1/2, 175, is receiving interest from Arkansas, Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas State. He had 30 tackles, including 2 tackles for loss, 18 pass breakups and 1 interception.

“He fits that big-time Division-I profile,” Bolding said. “He has long arms, which college coaches really like. He is a great ball skills. He plays receivers well and he’s physical.”

Reades 5-9, 192, recorded 24 tackles, including 2 sacks and 5 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, 1 recovered fumble for a touchdown and 4 blocked kicks. He rushed 74 times for 622 yards, an 8.4- yard average, and 7 touchdowns.

“I know Arkansas has been very impressed with his highlight film,” Bolding said.

Bolding said Reades was timed at 4.52 seconds in the 40 last spring as a ninth-grader.

“He’s built like a Greek god,” Bolding said. “He’s put together. He doesn’t have an ounce of fat on him.”

Skelton, 6-1, 200, rushed 158 times for 974 yards and 8 touchdowns and completed 87 of 152 passes for 1,219 yards, 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as the Zebras’ quarterback. He’ll also play safety in the fall.

“We didn’t play him on defense this year,” Bolding said. “We felt like his hands were full trying to be the quarterback as a sophomore.”

Bolding said Skelton will see plenty of interest come his way once colleges watch him on defense.

“Very physical, very physical,” Bolding said. “He will bring the wood to the party.”


Arkansas appears to be in good shape for one of the top prospects in Texas.

Highly regarded safety DeShon Elliott of Rockwall-Heath High School has cousins in Rogers and has attended several family reunions in the area.

“That’s my dream school,” Elliott said. “Been that way since I was little. I have family there. I grew up watching them.”

Elliott 6-1, 205, 4.53 seconds in the 40, has scholarship offers from Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU and Iowa. Arkansas hasn’t offered him, but it’s a good bet an offer will be coming at some point.

He’s forming a relationship with his lead recruiter, running backs coach Joel Thomas.

“We talk every now and then,” Elliott said. “I’ll call him sometimes and Arkansas sends me a bunch of stuff on a weekly basis. I find they’re interested.”

Elliott, who runs on the 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams, also long jumps and participates in the 110-meter hurdles. High jump might be added to his list of events.

He said he’s considering a visit to Fayetteville on Saturday.

“There’s good odds,” he said.

Arkansas has produced a slew of notable safeties over the years - Steve Atwater, Kenoy Kennedy and Ken Hamlin to name a few - but it’s been more than a decade since Hamlin played and talent has waned in the secondary.

Elliott’s coach at Rockwall-Heath, Mickey Moss, said Elliott fits the hard-hitting mold of Atwater, Kennedy and Hamlin.

“He’s the most explosive hitter I’ve ever had,” said Moss, a Southern Arkansas graduate who coached at Magnolia and Hamburg before moving to Texas. “He can bring it.”

Elliott said he will hold off making a decision even if he is offered by Arkansas.

“I’m trying to wait until I pull in all the offers and sit down and talk to my parents,” Elliott said.

E-mail Richard Davenport at

Sports, Pages 33 on 02/23/2014