The Recruiting Guy:

Charging Wildcats spotlighted at The Opening

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Tuesday, July 8, 2014
North Little Rock Charging Wildcats' K.J. Hill keeps his eye on the end zone during their game against the Lake Hamilton Wolves Sept. 6, 2013 at North Little Rock High School.
Photo by Melissa Gerrits
North Little Rock Charging Wildcats' K.J. Hill keeps his eye on the end zone during their game against the Lake Hamilton Wolves Sept. 6, 2013 at North Little Rock High School.

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Three Arkansans along with numerous other Razorbacks prospects will be taking part in today's Nike SPARQ Championship at The Opening at Nike Headquarters.

North Little Rock will be represented by safety Tyler Phillips and highly recruited receiver K.J. Hill. Phillips enters the competition with the nation's leading SPARQ rating. Highly regarded Dumas tight end Will Gragg will also compete. The SPARQ national championship will be televised tonight by ESPNU from 7 to 9 p.m. Central.

No school has ever had two representatives at the Opening, where 162 of the nation's top prospects have converged, until North Little Rock received two invites this year.

North Little Rock is the only school to have at least one participant each of the four years of the event, which runs through Thursday.

Phillips, 6-2, 206,, recorded the nation's leading SPARQ rating of 141.36 at the Dallas Nike Combine on May 3 with an electronic timing of 4.68 seconds in the 40, 4.00 in the pro shuttle and a 40.7-inch vertical leap and 42-0 power-ball toss.

SPARQ ratings are used as a standardized measure of athletic ability and take into account an athlete's speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness.

Phillips said he is having trouble grasping the idea of being at the Opening and competing with the top recruits in the nation.

"I don't think it's really sunk in yet," said Phillips, who possesses a scholarship offer from Ouachita Baptist University.

A good showing by Phillips in 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 competition could add schools to his offer list.

"I'm looking forward to playing big time up there and show out," Phillips said. "I really like that on the roster they have me listed as an athlete. I saw where they only have two safeties and three linebackers, so they'll probably be using me at safety and linebacker so I'll be getting more reps."

Hill, 6-0, 190, 4.42, is ESPN's No. 23 receiver prospect and its No. 223 overall prospect. Being able to participate at The Opening has been his goal for quite sometime.

"I've been ready to go since last year," said Hill, who recorded a 126.30 SQARQ rating at the Dallas Nike Combine.

Hill received an electronic time of 4.59 in the 40, 37-1 vertical, 3.93 pro-shuttle and 40-0 power toss.

"Sometimes I have to pinch myself," Hill said. "They call it football heaven."

"I definitely know there's a lot of people coming for me and K.J.," Phillips said. "Hopefully both of us can get into the top 10 and be on ESPN and hopefully one of us could win it. A lot of guys like Kirk Merritt will be up there .They're working to get us."

Phillips said he and Hill are proud to be from the only school with two representatives.

"I'm glad it's K.J. and I because I know he definitely puts in a lot of work," Phillips said. "I think he deserves it, and I'm glad there's two of us because that will make it a more special experience."

Hill and Gragg visited Arkansas during the Hogs' three-day camp in June and worked out two of the three days. They plan a similar-length trip to Alabama's camp later this month.

"Probably three [days] like Arkansas," Hill said.

Gragg, 6-4, 247, is rated as ESPN's No. 7 tight end and No. 209 prospect overall.

Gragg said he has his sights set on becoming the top-rated player at his position.

"I just want to go out there and show I'm the best tight end in the country, hands down, bar none," said Gragg, who announced Arkansas, Alabama, LSU, Louisville, Ole Miss and Texas as his top six schools Monday at the Opening.

Former Razorbacks wide receiver Jarius Wright (Warren), a member of the Minnesota Vikings, will be at the Opening to support Gragg.

Gragg said he is looking forward to going against the top linebackers, including Malik Jefferson.

"He and I have been going out because he's like the No. 2 or 3 linebacker, and I think we play them in the first game," Gragg said.

Many of the buildings at Nike Headquarters are named after the biggest names in sports, included noted Nike clients Tiger Woods and Bo Jackson.

"I want to see that and get all of the gear," Gragg said. "Hopefully get a whole bunch of gear."

Other athletes at The Opening being recruited by Arkansas include defensive back Holton Hill, 6-2, 185, of Houston Lamar, safety Will Sunderland, 6-3, 192, 4.56, of Midwest City, Okla., receiver Donte Jackson, 6-0, 165, 4.26, of New Orleans Riverdale, junior safety Deontay Anderson, 6-1, 192, 4.57, of Manvel, Texas.

E-mail Richard Davenport at

Sports on 07/08/2014