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:
Searcy's Braden Oliver another DI talent in 2022 class
Arkansas’ 2022 in-state football class has several prospects with Division I offers and Searcy safety Braden Oliver is another who should pick up his share of major college offers.
Oliver, 6-0, 182 pounds, helped Harding Academy to a 15-0 record and the Class 3A state title after recording a team-high 87 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 6 interceptions and a recovered fumble as a sophomore before transferring to Searcy.
He also had 5 kickoff returns for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Kenny Simpson was named Searcy’s coach on June 11 after spending nine seasons at Southside Batesville. He’s only seen last year’s game film and a few summer workouts since July 6, but he knows Oliver is a talent.
“High IQ football player who wants to be coached. Intelligent,” Simpson said. “It obviously helps that he’s also athletic.”
Simpson is looking forward to watching Oliver in pads.
“Just from the film I’ve seen, he’s also looks very physical,” Simpson said. “I think he’s one of those guys that can give you 120 tackles a year and play the ball in the air. Again, I’m just going by what I’ve seen from last season. I think what I’ve seen is he understands how to track ballcarriers, and that’s something hard to teach.
"He understands angles, he understands leverage. That’s a very underrated skill.”
Oliver also led Harding Academy in tackles as a freshman with 81. He also had 5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions and a recovered fumble.
Arkansas has extended offers to eight in-state prospects in the 2022 class and several others in the class have accumulated Power 5 offers. Simpson believes Oliver is D-I material.
“Obviously when pads come on at this level we’ll find out pretty quickly because of the opportunities he’s going to have playing against Marion and West Memphis,” Simpson said. “He’s going to be playing against D-I guys. He moves well enough, for sure.
"We’ll have to see after we start playing games, but everything I’ve seen indicates he’s going to be a pretty good ball player.”
Simpson sees Oliver’s football IQ and high character being attractive to college coaches.
“I think that will serve him very well, and a lot of times you might be able to run a 4.4 (40-yard dash), but if you go in the wrong direction, it doesn’t matter. He gets every ounce out of his ability,” Simpson said.
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