Bielema makes strong pitch to in-state prospects

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Charleston quarterback Ty Storey looks to pass against Glen Rose during Saturday night's Class 3A state final at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Photo by Jimmy Jones
Charleston quarterback Ty Storey looks to pass against Glen Rose during Saturday night's Class 3A state final at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Four of Arkansas’ six football commitments are from in-state prospects, and the Hogs are trying lure more from the highly regarded 2015 in-state class.

Three in-state recruits with scholarship offers from the Razorbacks who remain uncommitted - Pine Bluff tight end Will Gragg, North Little Rock receiver K.J. Hill and Fayetteville tight end C.J. O’Grady - visited Arkansas’ campus Saturday. Highland receiver Deon Stewart received an offer during his visit.

Gragg, 6-4, 238 pounds, 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash, is becoming one of the more highly sought tight end prospects in the nation and already has scholarship offers from 16 schools, including Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, LSU, Oregon, Ole Miss and Oklahoma.

“This is my first time being able to see everything in depth with all the new practice facilities,” said Gragg, who was one of about 13 prospects who visited the campus Saturday. “That was cool. Just an overall great visit.”

He said Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema was very involved with the recruits.

“Coach Bielema basically spent the whole day with us, which is not normal,” Gragg said. “You go to other schools, you see the head coach do the little 10-minute spiel and they go about their business. Coach B was with us the whole day.”

Arkansas commitments Ty Storey (quarterback) of Charleston, Colton Jackson(offensive lineman) of Conway and Zach Rogers (offensive lineman) of Carrolton, (Texas) Hebron were also on hand.

Bielema emphasized the importance of in-state prospects staying at home and playing for the Hogs.

“He was talking about the 2008 class and how they shifted the culture,” Gragg said. “We have the chance to do the same thing. It’s cool to see we have the same possibility to have the same effect.”

Fort Smith Northside defensive end Daytrieon Dean orally committed to Arkansas during his visit Saturday. Gragg said Bielema’s speech had an impact on the in-state athletes.

“Definitely,” Gragg said. “I think that’s what made Big D [Daytrieon Dean] end up committing.”

Gragg, who had 36 receptions for 367 yards and 6 touchdowns last season, plans to announce his college decision Nov. 18. He said the visit helped Arkansas’ chances to land him.

“It helped them quite a bit,” Gragg said.


North Little Rock receiver K.J. Hill said he also had a good visit to Arkansas on Saturday.

“It’s always good to go up to Arkansas,” Hill said. “ I was able to see how the facilities turned out. It’s pretty nice. They’re one of the best in the country.

“I had fun up there and talked to the coaches a little bit and got a feel for them.”

Hill, 6-0, 178, 4.5, has scholarship offers from 12 schools, including Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Penn State, Louisville, South Carolina and Notre Dame.

Hill wasn’t just being recruited by the Razorbacks’ coaches during his visit. Charleston quarterback Ty Storey, an Arkansas commitment, was doing his best to convince the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s offensive player year to join him at Arkansas.

“Ty was trying to recruit us,” Hill said. ”He was talking how we could come up and make a big difference.”

Hill had 63 receptions for 1 ,143 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He was accompanied on the visit by his stepfather, Montez Peterson, his mother, Diedra, and father, Keith Hill.

Most of the recruits watched the Arkansas basketball team’s 87-75 victory over Georgia at Walton Arena on Saturday, and Hill said attending the game was one of the highlights of the trip.

“Just the people knowing me when I walked into the game,” Hill said. “They were yelling my name and saying, ‘Be a Hog.’ ”

He said he and receivers coach Michael Smith were hanging out when Jim Chaney, Arkansas’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, entered the room to make a point.

“I talked to Coach Smith and he was breaking stuff down to me on how he deals with his players,” Hill said. “Coach Chaney came into the room with the quarterbacks, tight ends and receivers and said, ‘I will throw the ball.’ I’m going to come back up in the spring and just watch the offense.”

Hill said he and Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema were able to talk, too.

“He was asking me what’s holding me back,” Hill said of a possible commitment. ”I was asking him how I would fit and stuff like that. That’s why I want to come up one more time in the spring and watch a game, too.”

Hill said he plans to visit other schools as well.

“Alabama and probably Ole Miss, and maybe Notre Dame,” he said.

E-mail Richard Davenport at

Sports, Pages 17 on 03/04/2014