Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Bentonville junior LB Cole Joyce one of state's best
Bentonville High School linebacker Cole Joyce (42) runs through drills prior to the the spring football game, Thursday, May 24, 2018, at Tiger Stadium in Bentonville.
SPRINGDALE Bentonville junior linebacker Cole Joyce is one of the top 2021 prospects in Arkansas and showed why last weekend at the Southwest Elite 7-on-7 tournament.
Joyce (6-0, 210, 4.41 40-yard dash), who had 80 tackles as a sophomore, was all over the field for the Tigers as he showed off the speed and instincts that pushed him into the starting lineup last season.
“Cole Joyce is just a special player,” Bentonville head coach Jody Grant said. “He is one of the best linebackers we have had in this (Class 7A-West) conference in a long time. His speed is phenomenal and he has a head for football. When he comes for you, you know it.
“He also has great leadership qualities. He is just a special one. He is the leader of our defense.”
Joyce has offers from Louisiana-Monroe, Bowling Green, Tulsa and Alabama-Birmingham and is receiving interest from Arkansas and others.
Razorbacks head coach Chad Morris and defensive coordinator John Chavis have impressed Joyce, who was in one of their camps this summer and won the linebacker position's fastest man award.
“I love the head coach,” Joyce said. “He is a really good guy and I talk to Chief, the linebacker coach, a lot. He’s been at so many big-time programs.
“I would definitely consider it a lot if they offer because it is so close and I think they are turning it around.”
Joyce also had four tackles for lost yardage, a sack and three pass breakups last season.
“I thought I had a pretty good year least season, but the game was a little fast for me and it has slowed down now,” Joyce said. “This year it has.”
Bentonville lost its first pool game in the 27-team event on Friday, but rebounded to win its next nine games in pool and bracket play on Friday and Saturday.
The Tigers (10-3) would end up as one of the final five teams standing.
“I was a little worried after we lost our first game,” Joyce said. “…We were not communicating at all early, but we certainly did in the last few games.”
Bentonville was eliminated by eventual champion Springdale Har-Ber, 21-20, when Har-Ber scored on a two-point conversion on the final play in overtime.
“That was a great game,” Joyce said. “It came right down to the wire.”
Joyce has bests of 10.89 seconds in the 100 meters and 22.66 in the 200 while also running the 4x100 and shot putting for Bentonville’s track team.
“Track helps me a whole lot with that and also helps me stay in shape,” he said.
Bentonville has won 18 consecutive conference games dating back to Week 6 of the 2016 season, but has its sights set on bigger goals.
“Usually we are pretty good in conference,” Joyce said. “Winning state will also be our goal. The bond with this team is great.”
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