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:
Coaching staff, track program help Hogs land on 4-star WR's list
Justin Stepp, Arkansas wide receivers coach, runs a drill Thursday, March 1, 2018, during Arkansas spring football practice at the Fred W. Smith Football Center in Fayetteville.
The Arkansas coaching staff played a major role in the Razorbacks landing on highly recruited junior receiver Malcolm Johnson Jr.’s list of top schools.
Johnson Jr., 6-1, 190 pounds, of Alexandria (Va.) St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School, narrowed his list to Arkansas, Alabama, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas and Maryland on Sunday.
“I’m just very curious about Arkansas,” Johnson said. “I felt like they were very authentic with me at the beginning, so that’s what really stuck out for me when I was making this decision.
“I’m not saying every school that’s off the list isn't authentic, but I felt like they were genuine.”
Johnson mainly talks to receivers coach Justin Stepp.
“He’s a great guy,” he said. “He’s been keeping it real with me and I appreciate him a lot.”
He has outstanding speed and is looking at running track in college. He recorded 10.38 seconds in the 100-meter dash in a meet in Cuba while competing against older sprinters in July of last year.
“It was a great experience,” Johnson said. “I kind of liked it because you have to put your mind into a different space when you’re competing against people that are older and have different goals.
“Different culture, the food was great. It was nice.”
An every day convenience that Americans take for granted wasn’t available in Cuba, but Johnson was able to see people proud of their nation.
“Definitely made you appreciate the U.S. more because you couldn't drink the water. You had to drink bottled water,” he said. “The people are proud of who they are it was great.”
Johnson’s sprinter speed allowed him to record 832 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns on 47 receptions as a junior. He also had 3 kickoff returns for 115 yards, one touchdown, and 5 punt returns for 158 yards and a touchdown.
ESPN rates him a 4-star prospect, the No. 56 wide receiver and No. 280 overall recruit in the 2021 class.
Arkansas’ track and field program winning more than 40 national championships is intriguing to him.
“Running track is a big decision for me, because I would like to do both,” Johnson said. “They have a great track team.”
The coronavirus and the downtime associated with it expedited his decision to narrow his list of schools.
“I have a lot of time since this coronavirus stuff, so, like, why not do it now? I’m trying to make my decision before the season or sometime around that time,” Johnson said. “I just want to stay on track.”
Like many other prospects, Johnson said the virus has complicated his recruitment.
“It’s really difficult, because my date I want to get my commitment done with might be delayed a little bit,” he said. “I was supposed to visit during break. Three schools: South Carolina, Auburn and Alabama. It’s just a lot harder.”
A trip to Fayetteville is on his wish list.
“Hopefully I can get down there and see what it’s about in person,” Johnson said.
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