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.
Hogs could benefit from successful Little Rock programs
The upcoming opening of Southwest High School and the hiring of Daryl Patton as the coach has added to the momentum of the Little Rock School District's efforts to improve participation in football.
A byproduct of the progress in the football programs will be the University of Arkansas.
The district use to see about three to six prospects sign with the Hogs on a yearly basis until the numbers started to fall off in the early 2000s. The Hogs haven't signed a prospect from the district since 2005 when defensive end Antwain Robinson and safety Kevin Thornton of Little Rock Central signed with Arkansas.
Southwest is a $100 million facility that will include 340,000 square feet of academic space, 131 classrooms and laboratories, a 900-seat cafeteria, a 1,200-seat auditorium, along with a 4,000-seat football stadium, a 2,500-seat arena and a 500-seat auxiliary gym, a practice field/track, and a fieldhouse.
Patton, who led Fayetteville to four state championships, was at Bauxite for four years before being announced as the Gryphons' coach on Jan. 29.
"With the commitment the Little Rock school district and the city of Little Rock have made with building of Southwest high school is just incredible," Patton said. "It's [a] one-of-a kind facility. I've traveled the entire state. I've traveled the country over the years with USA football, and I've never seen a nicer facility."
Students from Little Rock McClellan and Fair will start classes at Southwest in August, but Patton will start offseason workouts with the football team next week.
Former McClellan Coach Maurice Moody was recently named Jacksonville's new coach after going 46-35 and taking the Lions to four playoff appearances and two Class 5A state championship games in seven seasons.
Before Moody's arrival, the McClellan program was in dire straits. Fair's program won an average of 1.3 games since 2001 with seven seasons being winless.
Patton recently met with 55 athletes from McClellan and 71 from Fair.
"I felt like McClellan would have decent numbers, and I wasn't sure about Fair going in, and we ended up having more kids from J.A. Fair showing up," Patton said.
Being able to start offseason workouts with more than 120 athletes is a great start.
"The kids are hungry," Patton said. "They're starving for success, they're starving for a big winner in the Central Arkansas area, and that's not taking away what McClellan has done the last five years . We're going to be [on] the biggest stage on the 7A level, and the kids are excited to build something special, not just the Little Rock School District, but for the city of Little Rock and Central Arkansas."
Ellis "Scooter" Register, who retired in 2018 after eight seasons at Central, stabilized the program and increased the number of kids participating in football. The Tigers hired Kent Laster to replace Register. Laster led Central to a 6-5 record and a berth in the 2019 state playoffs.
The Tigers have approximately 80 athletes going through offseason workouts with another 20 participating in other sports. Junior offensive lineman Makilan Thomas, 6-3, 290 pounds, is on Arkansas' radar and recently visited Fayetteville.
Coach Brad Bolding has increased the numbers at Little Rock Parkview and has about 70 athletes in offseason workouts. The roster has several major college prospects, including highly touted junior tight end Erin Outley and sophomore running back James Jointer. Both have scholarship offers from the Hogs.
Plans also are in place to improve Little Rock Hall's program. If the Hogs can ink 3-6 six athletes a year from the district in addition to the average of 5-7 other in-state prospects, it would lessen the reliance on out-of-state talent.
"I don't want to come across as biased, but when Central Arkansas and Little Rock football is good, the Razorbacks are good," Patton said. "We need Little Rock football to be really good because I think it helps Arkansas Razorback football."
Patton was one of more than 900 high school coaches that attended the Arkansas Football Coaches Association Ronnie Roach Coaching Clinic at Hot Springs over the weekend. Razorbacks Coach Sam Pittman and his staff attended the event.
''He said they're definitely going to be there to recruit our kids," Patton said of Pittman. "The kids at Southwest should be excited that Coach Pittman and the Razorbacks know who they are and the better we get and the better developed we get, they'll have opportunities out there."
"We have some really good looking kids. We obviously have to get into the weight room and get bigger and stronger, but we have a lot to work with. Everyone of them were very attentive and very respectful."
McClellan athletes will be bused over to Fair for offseason workouts until the team moves into the Southwest fieldhouse in June. Academics will be the focus before the workouts begin at 4 p.m.
"Everyday we'll go through study hall for about 90 minutes," Patton said.
E-mail Richard Davenport at email@example.com
Sports on 02/11/2020
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