The Recruiting Guy:

North Little Rock players impress at Nike event

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Friday, July 11, 2014
North Little Rock's KJ Hill scores a touchdown as Little Rock Central's Nick Hayes defends during their game Thursday night at Quigley Stadium.
Photo by Benjamin Krain
North Little Rock's KJ Hill scores a touchdown as Little Rock Central's Nick Hayes defends during their game Thursday night at Quigley Stadium.

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- North Little Rock safety Tyler Phillips arrived in Oregon for The Opening with a scholarship offer from Ouachita Baptist.

He left with scholarship offers from Campbell University and Air Force, and Pacific-12 member California is showing interest now as well.

Phillips finished third Tuesday in the Nike SPARQ Championship that was televised by ESPNU. Approximately 21,000 athletes competed at numerous Nike camps and combines across the country in an attempt to earn a spot at The Opening, which featured 162 of the top college football prospects in the nation.

SPARQ testing is a standardized measure used to gauge athletic ability. It tests an athlete's speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness.

Phillips, 6-2, 208 pounds, was electronically timed at 4.63 seconds in the 40-yard dash and at 3.97 seconds in the pro-shuttle. He turned in a vertical leap of 42.3 inches and tossed the power ball 43 feet for a SPARQ rating of 143.00.

"Of course I would've loved to have been first. I'm a competitor," said Phillips, who dealt with a tight hamstring during the competition. "Considering the circumstances, I think I did pretty well and I think I represented North Little Rock and the state pretty well."

Phillips said he has been in communication with California, which indicated an offer could be extended. He said he is thankful for the support he's received.

"I have great people that help me do great things," he said.

Phillips said he was particularly pleased with his vertical leap.

"The adrenaline was pumping," Phillips said. "That probably had the least to do with the hamstring, so I was able to go all out on that one. I was happy with it."

North Little Rock receiver K.J. Hill, 6-1, 192 pounds, finished ninth. He was timed at 4.61 seconds in the 40 and 3.94 seconds in the shuttle, and turned in a vertical leap of 38.2 inches and a power ball toss of 39.5.

Hill and Phillips earned spots in the finals after finishing eighth and fourth, respectively, in the prelims.

"I did the best I could," Hill said. "My legs were dead, but I'm not going to use that as an excuse. I just didn't do as well as I did in the morning, but I had a good time and a good experience. I got into the top 10, and I got a lot of gear. I'm good."

Hill also said Alabama, Florida and Oregon are among his top-five schools. He plans to announce the other schools he's interested in later.

Phillips and Hill ended up competing against one another in the 7-on-7 championship final. Phillips and Team Apocalypse came defeated Hill and Team Land Sharks 19-0 in a game that was broadcast on ESPNU.

"I had to beat K.J. because I couldn't let him brag the rest of my life," Phillips said. "We would come back to our class reunion like 20 years from now and he would be talking about how he beat me in the 7-on-7 championship.

"I definitely couldn't let that happen."


Former Arkansas and Minnesota Vikings receiver Jarius Wright was on hand at The Opening to show his support for Dumas tight end Will Gragg.

Gragg's parents and his older brother Chris, another former Razorback who plays tight end for the Buffalo Bills, weren't able to attend the event and asked Wright if he would.

"They also think of me as a brother," said Wright, who attended the first two days of the three-day event. " I'm glad I had a chance to make it out here to support him like a family member."

Gragg, 6-4, 252 pounds, said Monday that Arkansas, Alabama, LSU, Louisville, Ole Miss and Texas are at the top his list of prospective schools, in no particular order.

Wright and Chris Gragg played at Warren before signing with Arkansas in 2008. Wright said he was glad he played for the Razorbacks but that he wouldn't push Will Gragg toward the Hogs.

"I told him, first things first, go somewhere that makes you happy," Wright said. "I'm sure everybody knows how I love Arkansas to death, and I would love for Will to go to Arkansas. But if Arkansas doesn't fit Will, then I want him to do what fits him best."


Arkansas defensive backs coach Clay Jennings is working hard to get highly sought cornerback Kendall Sheffield of Missouri City (Texas) Marshall to visit Fayetteville.

"I've been calling him every two weeks, and we've just been building a relationship," Sheffield said.

Sheffield, 6-0, 180, 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash, is rated the No. 2 cornerback and the No. 10 overall prospect in the nation by ESPN. ESPN also rates him the No. 1 prospect in Texas. He already has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon.

Jennings' ability to produce top defensive backs interests Sheffield.

"He's a good coach and he puts a lot of defensive backs in the league," said Sheffield, who added that he is very interested in Arkansas. "He's very technical. I like that."

Sheffield will visit Alabama on Monday, and he is hoping to set up a visit with Arkansas.

"I'm not for sure yet," Sheffield said. "I want to go up there, but I haven't gotten with my dad to see what we're going to do yet."

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Sports on 07/11/2014