Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Arkansas DE pledge Hollingsworth preparing to enroll early
Greenland defensive end JJ Hollingsworth was the first player to commit to Arkansas' football recruiting class of 2022.
When Greenland defensive end and Arkansas 2022 football pledge J.J. Hollingsworth (6-4, 250) set up his official visit with the Razorbacks earlier this week, it was just another step in fulfilling a dream.
Hollingsworth, set to be an early enrollee in January 2022, is among several commits who will take official visits on Sept. 10-12, the weekend Arkansas hosts former Southwest Conference rival Texas.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Hollingsworth said. “It will be my first time to get up there (officially) as a recruit instead of a fan. I think it will be cool for me and the other guys.
"It’s been something I have been looking forward to for a long time.”
Because there has been a recruiting dead period in place from March 13, 2020, until midnight Friday, Hollingsworth has not had the opportunity to visit with Arkansas coaches in person.
He has been able to talk on the phone and conduct Zooms with Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman and his assistants, including new defensive line coach Jermial Ashley.
“We talk like once or twice a week and he will normally call or FaceTime,” Hollingsworth said. “He seems like a really good coach and you can tell he really cares and wants to be there.
“Even just watching him at the (Arkansas) spring game that I went to a couple of weeks ago, you can tell he really has a lot of respect already from the players even though he has only been there for two months. That shows me a lot and means a lot to me as a player."
Hollingsworth thought Arkansas' defensive line and quarterback KJ Jefferson stood out in the Red-White game.
“I think the defensive line looked really good,” Hollingsworth said. “I know we lost some big guys on our defensive line, but I still think we looked really, really good.
“I think a lot of people are worried about quarterback, but I think KJ stepped up and looked really good in that game, too.”
The Razorbacks have nine pledges in their 2022 recruiting class, a group that is ranked 14th nationally this week by 247 Sports composite rankings that include ESPN, Rivals and 247.
Hollingsworth, one of 11 in-state juniors offered by the Razorbacks, is pleased with how recruiting is going and working on the prospects in Arkansas.
Six of the 11 have committed to the Razorbacks, three are undecided and two have committed elsewhere.
“I think a lot of people saw some promise from (Arkansas) last year and we are really starting to get there with the in-state guys and that is what I really want,” Hollingsworth said. “In the past, we haven’t been known for great in-state recruiting. It means a lot that I am one of those guys.
“We just flipped (Clarendon wide receiver) Quincey McAdoo from Florida State not too long ago and that was a really big get for us. The others, we are planning on still getting. The bond we are building is something special.
"That is one of the biggest things that I am excited for.”
Hollingsworth has put himself in position to graduate early and get to Arkansas for the spring semester.
“I think it will help me with everything, including maybe getting a little playing time as a freshman,” he said. “Getting used to the environment and getting ahead on some classes while I'm there so I won’t have to cram so much into four years.”
Hollingsworth had 66 tackles last season, including 45 solo stops, with eight sacks and a forced fumble.
He does not plan to hit the summer camp circuit.
“I’m fine with where I am ranked and I got the offer I wanted, so I don’t want to put myself out there too much,” Hollingsworth said. “I am just trying to put myself in the best position to have a good senior year and then enroll early in January.”
Greenland does not have spring practice, but Hollingsworth continues to train with former Razorbacks standout linebacker Jermaine Petty.
“My coach is hoping to start up a little something,” Hollingsworth said. “So right now I have just been working out every day and training two or three times a week. I’m just trying to get bigger, faster and stronger.”
Hollingsworth is a starting offensive and defensive lineman and rarely leaves the field during a game.
“The biggest thing I want to work on is just my overall get-off, and since I play the whole game, my endurance,” Hollingsworth said. “That way I won’t have to take any plays off and I can put myself in position and leave a legacy for myself at Greenland.”
Greenland finished 9-3 last season, second to Charleston in league play, and ended the regular season with six straight wins before downing Perryville (48-7) and losing to Paris (35-12) in the Class 3A playoffs.
“We have lost our quarterback, a couple of our receivers, our running back and a couple of linemen,” Hollingsworth said. “We have lost quite a few guys and our team will be really young next year. I think we will have five or six seniors that will play next year.”
Hollingsworth is being counted on by Pirates coach Lee Larkan on to be one of the team’s leaders in 2021.
“We have a couple of guys who are stepping up and taking leadership roles and that is something we are really working on this offseason,” Hollingsworth said. “My coach has really tried to push me and a couple of other guys into that leadership role.
“We are hoping to develop into one of the best teams to ever play at Greenland.”
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