Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Well-prepared Coley among Arkansas' 15 early arrivals
Arkansas quarterback commitment Lucas Coley rushes the ball for Judson High School as a sophomore. (Courtesy Express-News)
FAYETTEVILLE Texas prep football star and ESPN four-star quarterback prospect Lucas Coley of San Antonio (Texas) Cornerstone Christian arrived in Fayetteville on Sunday, ready to enroll at Arkansas and begin his college career.
Coley (6-2, 207) is no stranger to the type of attention that being a Razorbacks quarterback brings as he is a young man who starred in the television series Friday Night Tykes, which chronicled youth football (ages 8-11) in the Texas Youth Football Association from 2014-17.
The 41-episode series, of which Coley appeared in the early years, will no longer be on Netflix after Saturday, Jan. 16 as it rotates off.
“It was exciting to be on a reality show and have cameras around and I think it helped me prepare to have success later in life, but for me it was more about just playing football than anything else,” Coley said. “Just something to take as a challenge and help me get better and try and get to where I am today.
“I think being on that stage early is part of why I will be ready for anything if I listen to my coaches and put in the work, which is something I have never been afraid to do.”
Yale Vannoy, Coley’s quarterback coach for the last several years, notes that the TV time and being a name in Texas prep football circles for a long time helped Coley mature beyond his years.
“He’s had the spotlight and the camera on him for a long time, so nothing makes him nervous, and the SEC, while a great league, is nothing that is going to faze him,” Vannoy said. “He’s very mature on and off the field. He’ll get there to Arkansas and work hard, and I expect we will see him thriving sooner than later.”
That’s a sentiment shared by Cornerstone head coach John Bachman.
“He is wise beyond his years,” Bachman said of Coley. “It was a joy to have him in our program and watch him continue his growth as a young man and as a player.”
Bachman thinks Coley, one of 13 early enrollees to arrive in Fayetteville this weekend, will be a smooth fit with Arkansas and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.
“Running the systems and stuff that they do is going to fit Lucas’ strengths,” Bachman said. “Lucas said he was was making a 40-year decision and not a four-year decision when he chose Arkansas, and I just think that right there shows you that he gets the big picture.
“Being around the game as long as he has is great for him, but now to get to pursue that at Arkansas with kids and coaches with similar mindsets is going to be great for him.”
Coley is part of a 2021 Razorbacks recruiting class that its ranked 21st nationally by ESPN and 247 Sports, and 23rd by Rivals.
“Arkansas has done a great job of getting its program turned around and he is looking forward to the future with those guys,” Bachman said. “He really believes he is going to be with a group of guys like himself that relish the challenge with a group of coaches that know how to win.”
Coley and Little Rock Parkview’s Landon Rogers (6-4, 215), who will arrive this summer, are the two quarterbacks Arkansas signed in its 2021 class to compete with current Razorbacks quarterbacks KJ Jefferson (6-3, 236), Malik Hornsby (6-2, 183) and John Stephen Jones (5-11, 202).
Coley is coming off a senior season in which he passed for 1,100-plus yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception with almost 500 rushing yards and 11 more scores.
Vannoy, a former Nichols State quarterback, has former or current students at Colorado, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Wyoming, Texas State, New Mexico State, Texas-El Paso, Abilene Christian and Arkansas Tech.
Coley chose Arkansas over approximately 25 other offers, including ones from Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Illinois, Louisville, Houston, Yale and Vanderbilt. He also received late interest from Clemson.
Coley accounted for more than 3,000 yards of total offense and 30 touchdowns during a 7-3 junior season that captured the attention of many of those schools.
Coley is ESPN’s No. 9 dual-threat quarterback prospect in the 2021 class. Vannoy is understandably high on his pupil.
“I would rank him at the top of his class,” Vannoy said. “He can throw the ball really far and really hard and is an exceptional athlete. But things that we have worked on over the years are his accuracy and which types of throws are best for which type of situations. You don’t need it as hard on short, intermediate throws. You just need firm balls and touch balls. That has been the main things we have focused on getting him ready for Arkansas.”
Bachman is proud of Coley’ technique that Yannoy has helped develop, but also of his ability to use his football IQ and turn a bad play into a successful one.
“It’s obvious that he has been coached up all his life and worked with trainers, but it has also been really cool to watch him adapt,” Bachman said. “Anybody can throw the ball when you drop seven steps and set up, but there are a lot of times you are not going to get seven and sometimes you might only get two.
“How do you improvise? How do you create? How do you continue and make a play? Just watching him do that with the ball this season was just outstanding. And he is just going to continue to get better. Arkansas fans are going to love the kid and love the player.”
Arkansas' 2021 Early Enrollees (15)
• Marco Avant, LB, 6-3, 212, Jonesboro, Ark.
• Lucas Coley, QB, 6-2, 207, San Antonio (Texas) Cornerstone Christian
• Ty'Kieast Crawford, OL, 6-5, 335, Charlotte (Transfer)
• Patrick Foley, P, 6-3, 190, Omaha (Neb.) Creighton Prep (Preferred walk-on)
• Jermaine Hamilton-Jordan, S, 6-1, 195, Kansas City (Mo.) Lincoln College Prep
• Javion Hunt, RB, 6-0, 205, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Carl Albert
• Trent Gordon, DB, 5-11, 202, Penn State (Transfer)
• Ketron Jackson, WR, 6-2, 190, Royse City, Texas
• Jalen James, DT, 6-3, 310, Jones (Miss.) College
• Jayden Johnson, S, 6-2, 206, Cedartown, Ga.
• Cameron Little, K, 6-2, 170, Moore (Okla.) Southmoore
• Christopher Paul, LB, 6-1, 225, Cordale (Ga.) Crisp County
• Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, ATH, 6-2, 210, Rockledge, Fla.
• Darrell Wilson, S, 6-3, 210, Marion (Ind.) University (Preferred walk-on transfer)
• Jaedon Wilson, WR, 6-3, 173, DeSoto, Texas
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.