Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Stephens, Wright shine in battle of Arkansas pledges
John Marshall's Bryce Stephens catches a touchdown pass in as Kingfisher's Clayton Abercrombie watches during a high school football game between Kingfisher and John Marshall at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (Courtesy Photo by Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman)
FAYETTEVILLE Pieces of Arkansas’ football future were on display on both sides of the ball Friday night in a hastily arranged game in Vian, Okla.
Oklahoma City (Okla.) John Marshall receiver Bryce Stephens (6-1, 170, 4.37) and Vian defensive tackle Solomon Wright (6-0, 270) faced off in a battle of teams led by two of the Razorbacks' six 2021 commits from the Sooner State.
Vian (3-0) got the win 32-28 when quarterback Jayvn Wright, who rushed 35 times for 283 yards and two touchdowns, threw a 94-yard touchdown pass with 1:46 remaining.
Solomon Wright had 10 tackles, four for lost yardage, while Marshall had eight catches for 132 yards and a touchdown in a game that was scheduled just a day before it was played.
“Thursday about noon, our athletic director called and explained to me that the team we were going to play was going to cancel,” Marshall head coach Keith Horrocks said. “I was pretty bummed because at that time we had only one game and one-quarter of a scrimmage under our belt going into the next week when we have Heritage Hall.
"So I said, ‘Let me see if I can find a game.’”
Horrocks, a former college assistant at Southern Miss, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, made some calls and quickly had a game for his Class 4A team against the top-ranked team in Class 2A.
“I wanted to play somebody that was a championship-style team that had good players and stuff like that so it would help our players gain experience moving further along in the season,” Horrocks said. “I knew they were No. 1 in 2A and had a kid going to Arkansas to play football and had some talented players.
“Within a matter of about 15 minutes, I got on the phone with their head coach, got all the details worked out, shared film and changed the mindset of the gameplan we had for the other team.”
Horrocks walked away impressed with Solomon Wright, the son of former Oklahoma State and NFL player Kenyatta Wright.
Wright, who had 124 tackles and 14 sacks as a junior, flipped his pledge from Texas Tech to Arkansas on July 17 and also had offers from Oklahoma State, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and others.
“He is the best defensive tackle we will play all year,” Horrocks said. “He is a possible Sunday kid, in my opinion. He is so explosive off the ball. He has got unbelievable technique for a high school kid. It seems like he made every play Friday night. We started running away from him and he would make the tackle six or seven yards down the field. He was always around the ball.
“Watching him on film, I knew he was going to be a guy that we were going to have to handle, but to see him in person and how explosive he is, I mean, he is going to have a long football career. If he has a good college football career, he can play on Sundays.”
Stephens, also a track star for the Bears, chose Arkansas over Oklahoma State, Michigan Texas A&M, Tennessee, Baylor and others.
He had 25 catches, 570 yards and seven touchdown grabs as a junior while also rushing times for 234 yards and three scores. He also finished with 25 tackles and five interceptions.
“By the end of the year, he will have over 1,000 yards (receiving) if not close to it and an unbelievable amount of touchdowns just because he is versatile and we move him to different places,” Horrocks said. “It was evident Friday night when I started moving him around, it committed match up problems for them. He made a lot more plays when we started doing that instead of just lining him up outside and just throwing him vertical passes.
“He is a kid that a lot of people gameplan for. In the first two games, we have had people play defenses over the top of him and he still made plays. He is one of those guys that is going to gain a lot of attention, so I think moving him around is going to help us get him the ball more and let him make plays.
Stephens reminds Horrocks of former West Virginia star and NFL player Tavon Austin.
“When I was coaching at West Virginia, we had Tavon Austin and he reminds me of him but taller,” Horrocks said. “He is fast, got good hands, understands the game well, got great ball skills and is hard to tackle. He is so explosive that once you get the ball in his hands that you never know what is about to happen. He is going to score or make a big play.
“We have other guys around him that make it hard for them to just try and take him out of it, but I think he is a guy that is going to make a huge impact in college and he could be one of those guys that plays early because of just how dynamic he is.”
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