Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is the host of Recruiting Thursday, a weekly radio show that airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on 92.1 FM in Fayetteville; 93.7 FM in Little Rock; 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home; and 106.9 FM in Arkadelphia.
The Recruiting Guy:
Arkansas targeting junior who’s ‘just a football player’
University of Arkansas junior target JaCorey Thomas is a rare athlete who is capable of playing an unusual number of positions.
“He’s special. We used him all over the field,” Orlando (Fla.) Boone Coach Andy Johnson said. “He could probably play any one of seven or eight positions. He could be a running back, an inside receiver, outside receiver, a corner, a safety, outside linebacker. He’s just a football player.”
Thomas, 6-1, 190 pounds, had 11 scholarship offers from schools such as Arkansas, Miami, Auburn, Tennessee, Nebraska, Kentucky, Central Florida and others in September.
Since then he’s added offers from Virginia Tech, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Florida State, Arizona State and Florida International.
Schools have offered him to play as a running back, receiver, cornerback and both safety positions.
Arkansas is recruiting Thomas as a safety/athlete.
“I think what most colleges are excited about is the flexibility he provides,” Johnson said.
Thomas finished the season with 37 carries for 215 yards and 4 touchdowns, and 19 catches for 349 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also had 10 kickoff returns for 363 yards and a touchdown, and a 49-yard punt return for a score.
“I’ve never had a kid that fills out the stat sheet on both sides of the ball like he does every game, really all three phases of the ball,” Johnson said.
Defense is where Thomas hopes to play at the next level.
“I prefer playing safety and defense,” he said. “I like hitting people. I rather be the hammer than the nail. The nail doesn’t feel too good after a while.”
Thomas said he communicates with special teams coordinator Scott Fountain most of the time.
“I think he’s chill, he’s a very cool dude,” Thomas said. “Very funny. I like talking to Coach Fountain. He asks about my family and asks how things are going in my life. He’s a really cool dude.”
CBS Sports Network national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming rates Thomas a 3-star-plus prospect.
He expects to talk to Coach Sam Pittman soon.
“I’m supposed to be talking to Coach Pittman sometime this week,” said Thomas, who also communicates with receivers coach Justin Stepp. “That’s what Coach Fountain said.”
Going into the season, Arkansas had last won an SEC game in 2017. The Hogs have won three conference games under Pittman and hope for a fourth against Missouri on Saturday.
“They’re looking better,” Thomas said. “They’re still growing. The future looks better.”
Thomas, who has a 3.8 grade-point average, said his mother, Danyetta, an educator, is impressed with Fountain and Stepp.
“She likes them because they keep in touch a lot,” Thomas said.
In 2019, the U.S. News & World Report ranked Fayetteville as the best city to live in the SEC, and the fourth-best city overall in the nation on the publication’s annual “Best Places To Live” list.
The city’s top-five overall ranking places the University of Arkansas at No. 1 in the SEC and No. 2 among all Power 5 institutions for the fourth straight year.
Fountain has talked up Fayetteville and the Razorback fans.
“He’s told me how the city and how the fans are at Arkansas,” Thomas said. “It’s interested me enough to want to go check it out.”
The NCAA has extended the dead period until April 15, but once the dead period is lifted, Arkansas is on Thomas’ visit list.
“We talk about it a lot,” Thomas said. “We want to go visit.”
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