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:
Razorback commit pushing UA to teammate
University of Arkansas safety commitment Jermaine Hamilton-Jordan is recruiting his teammate and highly regarded defensive end Tobechi Okoli to join him in Fayetteville.
Okoli, 6-5, 260 pounds, of Kansas City (Mo.) Lincoln College Prep narrowed his list of schools to Michigan, Missouri, Kentucky, Auburn, Nebraska, Georgia, Kansas State and Oklahoma in May, but a visit to Fayetteville looks to be in the plans.
“I had asked him if he would at least take a visit to Arkansas and he said, ‘Oh, for sure’,” Hamilton-Jordan said.
Hamilton-Jordan made an unofficial visit on March 7, the last time Coach Sam Pittman and his staff hosted prospects before the NCAA enforced a dead period because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Okoli was to visit the Hogs a week or so after Hamilton-Jordan.
“As we know before the covid-19 popped off, Tobe was supposed to visit, I believe on the 16th, and he couldn’t make that trip because the NCAA shut everything down,” Hamilton-Jordan said.”So he said [he] may take an official on game day.”
Hamilton-Jordan, who pledged to Arkansas over scholarship offers from Kentucky, Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State and others, isn’t overbearing when urging Okoli to be a Hog.
“With Tobe, you have to let him decide,” Hamilton-Jordan said. “It’s not hard talking to him, but as a teammate I wish the best for him. I would love for him to come to Arkansas with me. I don’t say much about it, but he knows I’m pushing for him to come to Arkansas, but with him taking a visit, one visit with me it’s hard to say no.”
In his first year to play football, Okoli suffered a sports hernia in Week 4 of the season and missed two games and played sparely in others while recording 15.5 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a recovered fumble and 2 batted balls.
Being new to the game, Okoli is also a newcomer to recruiting.
“He just blew up, so there’s a lot coming at him right now,” Hamilton-Jordan said. “He literally barely knew half the colleges that offered him.”
Hamilton-Jordan believes Okoli could fall in love with Arkansas like he did when he visited. He was met by Pittman, defensive coordinator Barry Odom and cornerbacks coach Sam Carter as he arrived.
“I mean as soon as I walked into the door three -four coaches came up to me, ‘Jermaine is here, Jermaine is here’,” Hamilton-Jordan said. “Coach Odom met me at the door and welcomed me and the next thing you know coach Carter follows, Coach Pittman follows. I haven’t even signed the papers yet to write down all the information they needed for junior day.”
While Hamilton-Jordan is a future Hog, Lincoln College Prep offensive coordinator Donnell Fletcher is a former Hog. He was a running back for the Razorbacks from 1995-1996.
Hamilton-Jordan thinks the shy Okoli might feel more comfortable attending school with someone he knows.
“I think that would help a lot,” Hamilton-Jordan said. “He’ll be more interactive, he’ll know someone, he won’t be alone.”
He described what Okoli is looking for his his future college.
“Really for him his main three things will be engineering, football and the family environment.” he said.
Odom and defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc are heading up the recruitment of Okoli. Hamilton-Jordan is one of the leaders among Arkansas’ commitments and is consistently lobbying other recruits to be Hogs.
He’s doing what he can to aid Odom and LeBlanc in their pursuit of Okoli.
“I’m one of the top recruiters too, so I’m recruiting him as a well,” Hamilton-Jordan said.
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