Flips to Arkansas add intrigue to Missouri game

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Thursday, December 26, 2019
Missouri head coach Barry Odom leads his team onto the field to play Arkansas during an NCAA college football game, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019 in Little Rock. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
Missouri head coach Barry Odom leads his team onto the field to play Arkansas during an NCAA college football game, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019 in Little Rock. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

Maybe now this annual Arkansas-Missouri football game the day after Thanksgiving can start moving toward being ArMogeddon.

I am fully aware that it is called the Battle Line Rivalry, but I’ve never liked that name, and it’s not really been a rivalry anyway.

After Arkansas won the first contest between the two when Missouri entered the SEC in 2015, the Tigers have won the four games played between the two on a day known as Black Friday.

Missouri won this season with five Arkansas high school stars that did not get the chance to play for the home team — including former Fayetteville quarterback Taylor Powell throwing to former Purple Bulldog receiver Barrett Bannister — and one Razorback turned Tiger in Jonathan Nance.

We can add into the mix that former Missouri head coach Barry Odom is now the Arkansas defensive coordinator and Brad Davis is now coaching the Razorbacks’ offensive line instead of the Tigers.

Those were key pickups by new Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman, who seems to have hit a home run with the hires of Odom and new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.

Missouri’s new head coach is Eli Drinkwitz, who spent time in Alma and Springdale before heading off to college to coach with one Gus Malzahn, certainly a polarizing figure in these parts.

Also Memphis offensive lineman Ray Curry Jr., (6-6, 315) and Texas prep running back Dominique Johnson (6-1, 225) switched sides on the first day of the early signing period with Johnson doing so emphatically.

Johnson arrived for his signing ceremony dressed in Missouri gear, only to take off his jacket and slam his hat to the floor in a dramatic flip to Arkansas that no doubt upset a few Tiger faithful.

According to a Johnson confidant, the player was not happy with Drinkwitz telling others he was going to be a linebacker while telling the player himself that he was recruiting him as a running back.

“I took my official to Missouri a couple of days before signing day, and I liked it, but the head coaching change made it kind of not feel like home anymore, and there were some other things,” Johnson said. “But I actually talked to Coach Pittman a few days before signing day, he offered me, and I committed right away over the phone.

“Most of it was about how Coach Odom and I had a good relationship, and I knew that Arkansas would be a good place for me just because of Coach Odom. It made me feel comfortable even though I have never been to campus.”

Johnson already has next year’s game circled on his calendar.

“I will be real excited about that game,” Johnson said. “The players that I met at Missouri can’t wait for that game, and I can’t wait either. With the coaching changes going on, I am sure that is going to take it up a notch.”

Johnson and Curry are two of the nine early signees that Pittman was able to land last week with four of them being defensive players that are able to enroll early.

That means that Hazen defensive end Blayne Toll (6-5, 244); East Mississippi Community College defensive linemen Julius Coates (6-6, 270); Harvey, La., Helen Cox linebacker Kelin Burrle (6-0, 220); and Owasso, Okla., cornerback Myles Slusher (6-0, 181) will be in school in January and go through offseason conditioning and spring practice.

“I can see Arkansas coming on strong, and I am going to be happy to be a part of that,” Johnson said. “I feel like I am going to be on the right side.”

Dudley E. Dawson can be reached at ddawson@nwadg.com .


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