Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Arkansas pledge Hollingsworth among talented Pirates
Greenland defensive end JJ Hollingsworth was the first player to commit to Arkansas' football recruiting class of 2022.
FAYETTEVILLE Greenland football coach Lee Larkan has one of the state’s best junior prospects in Arkansas defensive end commit JJ Hollingsworth (6-4, 250). He also believes he has a few of the best position players in the 1-3A conference.
But as his readies the Pirates for a scrimmage game at Gravette on Thursday, Aug. 20 and a season opener at Elkins on Aug. 28, Larkan is fighting more preseason challenges than usual.
It is a matter of dealing with the covid-19 pandemic and the guidelines that go with it to be able to practice and have a season.
“It has been really tough getting kids here,” Larkan said Tuesday afternoon. “We thought we had between 30 and 40 on the roster, but yesterday we had just 18 show up. Today we had 31. It has kind of been up and down and that’s been a little tough.
“And then the rules that you have to go by - and I understand why we have to go by them - but we socially distance them in the lines and the locker room and then they get in their cars together and go home. It’s tough, but that’s the way it is and you deal with it because if we want to play, that is what we have to do.”
Hollingsworth, who was the first of a trio of Arkansas 2022 pledges, committed 11 days after getting an offer from the Razorbacks on July 13 to join ones from Kansas and Akron.
He is coming off a sophomore season in which he played nine games with a broken hand and a cast. He finished with 33 tackles, 14 solo, two tackles for loss and one sack.
“I think the sky is the limit for him, and he is still growing,” Larkan said. “With that, he is relatively inexperienced because he was hurt all last year. He had some really good games and he plays well, but he was playing with a really big cast on his arm every Friday night.”
He is one of nine in-state juniors who have been offered by Arkansas.
“I think the best is yet to come with him,” Larkan said. “The big deal is that this year is he is going to have to be in great shape to play every snap, not just defense, because now he is also an offensive guy. Right now, we are looking at him at either guard or tackle as well as defensive end.”
Hollingsworth and the other Pirates are excited that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is allowing them to have a season.
“They are happy, but I think sometimes the kids don’t understand the seriousness of stuff and don’t understand why they didn’t get to finish the year (in spring sports),” Larkan said. "I don’t either, because I think things might be a little worse now than they were then. But then it was the unknown and we still have the unknown.
“Kids just go about their daily lives and are sometimes oblivious, but I think seniors really feel like that we have got something here we don’t want to lose.
“I think the state and the Governor have had a great outlook on things. He wants us to play and I think they have handled it pretty well.”
Senior quarterback Gabe Wilson (6-2, 205) passed for 1,912 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 485 yards and 10 scores for a 7-5 team that advanced to the state playoffs.
Senior tailback Jett Dennis (5-10, 170) piled up 1,312 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns in 2019.
“I think we should be as good as anybody in the conference,” Larkan said. “We have the best quarterback in the conference and one of the best in 3A in Gabe Wilson, who started last season and is about 6-2, 210 with a good arm.
“I also think we have the best tailback in our conference in Jett Dennis. We have got two of the best in the backfield and JJ upfront. I think we are going to be a little bigger and stronger team than we have been in the past.”
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