Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Sidney looking to open Mater Dei-to-Arkansas pipeline
Arkansas receiver Shannon Sidney prepares to catch a pass during practice Tuesday, Sept. 19, 1995, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Former Arkansas football player and current Riverside, Calif., Mater Dei assistant coach Shannon Sidney brought seven of his players to a Razorback football camp on Saturday and his son left with a scholarship offer.
Cameron Sidney (5-10, 165) is a rising sophomore and a 2022 defensive back prospect. He was offered by Arkansas head coach Chad Morris and his staff after his performance at the Razorbacks Elite Camp.
"Getting offered by my dad's old school was exciting because I know it made him proud," Cameron Sidney said. "The camp was great and I loved the coaches and how they taught me so much at that camp."
Shannon Sidney, a wide receiver who caught 28 passes for 348 yards as a Razorback from 1994-97, was obviously beaming with pride about the situation.
“We brought seven guys out here, but one is more special to me and that’s Cameron Sidney,” Shannon Sidney said. “He has an opportunity to be pretty good. He has got to keep his head on straight and stay healthy, but as long as he stays on the path he is on, he has a chance to be very good.
“He is a lot better than his old man. He’s a lot better athlete and a lot better natural football player. It’s just his thing. At Mater Dei we have the ability to play one side of the ball and he loves the defensive side and plays a pretty mean corner.”
Cameron Sidney assessed his game.
My strengths are aggression and intelligence," Sidney said. "My weaknesses are me being over aggressive and having to recover to make a play."
The other Mater Dei players on hand were 2022 tight end/defensive end David Bailey (6-4, 220), 2022 tailback-wide receiver Quincey Craig (5-8, 142), 2023 freshman quarterback Parker Awad (6-0, 162) and fellow 2023 athletes Kassius Ashtinai and Samari Staten.
Bailey, who already has an offer from LSU, has a chance to be a big-time recruit according to Sidney.
“He can be real special for us,” Sidney said. “He is just a baby, just 15. But his 4.11 grade point averaged translates very well to a high football IQ. He is still learning the game by maturing to play it on the varsity level.”
That group was a part of a freshman squad that finished 8-0 last season with Sidney as the team’s offensive coordinator.
“I love Arkansas,” Sidney said. “The only reason I am not here is that I have a kid in Hollywood and my wife (Malik Chelette Sidney) was born and raised in Southern California.
“That’s the reason I want to expose some of my guys to things beyond the Rocky Mountains because a lot of them don’t get that opportunity. A lot of them love the SEC, they just don’t know how to get there.”
Sidney wanted to get his players to Arkansas to give Razorbacks coaches a chance to get in some early recruiting.
“We brought a lot of freshman and sophomores out here and that the Hogs can jump on them early if they want to,” Sidney said. “Plus they will tell the other guys that you need to go down there and see the show. They have never seen anything like this.
“SC (Southern California) is nice and UCLA, but it is different down here. It is a lifestyle.”
Sidney has begun to develop a relationship with the current Razorback caching staff, which is headed into its second year at the helm.
“I am just getting to meet them, but so far so good,” Sidney said. “There are a couple of guys I have got them on at Mater Dei and they have followed up on that and I have been appreciative of that. I am looking forward to building that relationship so we can build a pipeline from Mater Dei to Arkansas.
“We are sitting on a lot of talent and I have no problem trying to direct it toward Fayetteville.”
Mater Dei, which has had two Heisman Trophy winners in John Hurate (1964) and Matt Leinart (2004), is the two-time defending national high champions under 30-year head coach Bruce Rollinson.
“Mater Dei is a wonderful institution with amazing tradition,” Sidney said. "Coach Robinson is a great coach that cares about his guys on the field and off and he works really hard to instill great character in them.”
The older Sidney looks fondly back on his career, including the Razorbacks (8-5) winning the 1995 SEC Western Division Championship, playing in the SEC championship game and the Carquest Bowl.
“My time here with Danny Ford was going from the triple option to finally going single back,” Sidney said. “We were just babies in the SEC and had some growing pains, but once we all put it together, 1995 happened.
“College football is about depth and staying healthy. We had enough depth that year that even our young help could lead to success.”
Arkansas finished 4-7 in both 1996 and 1997 before Ford was replaced with Houston Nutt, whose team won its first seven games and finished 9-3 in 1998.
“After we lost those old heads we had a tough two years and had to rebuild, but then you see what happened in 1998,” Sidney said.
“I am a realistic Razorback fan in that I expect them to compete for a championship every three or four years. So 1995 was one of those years that we were rebuilding my last two years and you see what happened in 1998.”
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