Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He appears weekly on The Red Zone w/ JB on 92.1 FM Fayetteville, The Morning Rush w/ Tye & Tommy on 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home, 99.5 FM in Fayetteville and The Zone w/ Justin & Wess on 103.7 FM in Little Rock.
The Recruiting Guy:
LB prospect likes what he sees in Hogs' victory
Junior linebacker Alston Orji.
Arkansas hosted several junior football prospects for the Florida game Saturday, and linebacker Alston Orji was probably the most impressive student-athlete in attendance.
Orji, 6-2, 220 pounds, 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash, of Rockwall, Texas, has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Nebraska, TCU and others.
ESPN rates him as the No. 8 outside linebacker and the No. 207 overall prospect in the nation for the 2018 class. He said some of the highlights of the trip was seeing the Arkansas defense dominating the Florida offense and spending time with Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema.
"Definitely watching the defense basically work Florida the entire game was a big highlight and being able to see the facilities and being able to get some one-on-one time with Coach Bielema was nice, just the hospitality of everyone there," Orji said. "Everyone seemed really genuine about what they said about the school."
Orji, who has a 295-pound bench press, a 455-pound squat and a 280-pound power clean, also said he found the Razorbacks fan base very engaging.
"The fans were really hospitable when they found out I was a recruit," Orji said. "They were just wanting to talk to me like, how I was doing on the season and like my school. Overall, it was a great visit."
Orji's father, Willy, a computer engineer, moved to the United States from Nigeria in 1987. His mother, Mariam, a general surgeon specializing in minimally invasive and robotic surgery, arrived in 1996.
In 10 games this season, Orji has 53 tackles, 2 quarterback hurries, a pass breakup and a forced fumble. He said he was impressed with Bielema.
"He just seems like a really, really good coach, a really, really good guy and is genuinely interested in my family and our background," Orji said. "He wanted to know a lot about our season, how we're doing. He wanted to know about me as a person."
Running backs coach Reggie Mitchell is Arkansas' lead recruiter for Orji.
"An excellent coach and great guy, a very friendly and genuine man," Orji said.
An excellent student, Orji, who plans to major in business, said he liked when Bielema talked up Arkansas' highly regarded Sam M. Walton College of Business.
"At the end of the day I'm going for an education, so I'm looking for a school that offers me the best education," Orji said. "I talked to Coach B about their business program and the fact he could tell me something right off the bat about the program tells me he really does value education."
Orji said his parents stressed hard work to him and his brother, Anfernee, a sophomore linebacker for Rockwall.
"We didn't grow up with an allowance or anything like that," Orji said. "We didn't do stuff like that. You had to earn it. You worked for everything you got because in the world, people aren't just going to hand things to you."
Junior college offensive lineman Kelby Wickline officially visited Arkansas for the Florida game, and it appears the Razorbacks have a solid shot at landing him.
"It was great, well put together," Wickline said. "They did a good job with me. I enjoyed it a lot."
Wickline, a 6-4¼, 282 pounds, of Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Miss., has approximately 15 scholarship offers, including ones from Arkansas, TCU, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Southern Miss, Kentucky, Missouri and West Virginia.
The Hogs' 31-10 victory over the Gators was the highlight of the trip, Wickline said.
"The atmosphere was so surreal, SEC, can't beat it," he said.
Wickline's father, Joe, is the offensive coordinator at West Virginia and has previously coached at Oklahoma State, Texas, Ole Miss, Baylor and Florida.
Wickline has also taken an official visit to Missouri and has plans to make trips to TCU and North Carolina. He grew up on Stillwater, Okla., while his father was at Oklahoma State.
"I will be back home and take an unofficial to Oklahoma State during Thanksgiving break," Wickline said.
He also said the Arkansas visit helped the Hogs' chances of landing him.
"They are definitely in my top three," Wickline said.
Wickline is expected to graduate in December and enroll in January at his new school. He has three years of eligibility remaining, but has already used his redshirt season. He was complimentary of Arkansas offensive line coach Kurt Anderson.
"He's a great family guy and also knows how to work," Wickline said. "Great technique. Both ends of the spectrum. Would be real excited to work with him."
Some have speculated Wickline will join his father at West Virginia.
"As of right now, I want to blaze my own trail," Wickline said. "My dad could go anywhere. You know how this business is."
His decision could come soon.
"Probably in this upcoming week or the next week," Wickline said.
E-mail Richard Davenport at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sports on 11/08/2016
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.