Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He appears weekly on The Red Zone w/ JB on 92.1 FM Fayetteville, The Morning Rush w/ Tye & Tommy on 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home, 99.5 FM in Fayetteville and The Zone w/ Justin & Wess on 103.7 FM in Little Rock.
The Recruiting Guy:
4-star LB could see himself at Arkansas
Razorbacks assistant linebackers coach Jake Trump, DJ Barber’s stepfather Derrick Felton, Barber, and Arkansas defensive coordinator Travis Williams.
Four-star junior linebacker DJ Barber’s two-day visit to Arkansas on Friday and Saturday was so successful that a return trip in April is in the works.
“It’s a place I could definitely see myself playing at in the future just by being there a couple of days,” Barber said. “I was able to see how the coaches are as people outside of football and talk to them about life beyond football.”
Barber, 6-0, 220 pounds, of Pinson (Ala.) Clay-Chalkville, has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and other schools.
He was impressed with Razorbacks defensive coordinator Travis Williams’ relationship building with players.
“It’s not just about you playing for him. It’s how when you play for him, you build a bond and a relationship that’s going to last the rest of your life,” Barber said.
His meeting with Arkansas coach Sam Pittman on Saturday morning resonated with him.
“He opened my eyes to whole surreal-ness of being a football player at Arkansas and how much it means to him and how much it means to the city and how much he wanted me to play there,” Barber said.
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On3.com rates him a 4-star prospect and the No. 31 linebacker in the nation. Barber wasn’t just impressed with Williams and Pittman, but also special teams coordinator Scott Fountain and assistant linebackers coach/senior defensive analyst Jake Trump.
“They really made it be a great time for me, too,” Barber said. “They were very hospitable the whole time. It was just the little things they did, like throughout each drill and throughout the transition of practice they would come over and speak to me about a certain drill or what did I think about the day.”
He had some 1-on 1 time with Fountain.
“He’s just a great guy, straight-forward guy that’s always going to look out for you and keep it real with you,” Barber said.
Barber was accompanied by his stepfather Derrick Felton, who learned of the state-wide support the Razorbacks enjoy.
“There’s no Major League Baseball team, there’s no major league football team, it’s just the Arkansas Razorbacks,” Felton said. “In somebody’s eyes, they’re going to be superstars for a while, whether they go to the NFL or not.”
Felton came into the visit focused on academics and the engineering school at Arkansas, but after being assured of both, he was taken aback by the whole state being behind the Razorbacks.
“My main focus was academics, but once they answered that question and I found out they were the only thing going in Arkansas, I’m like, ‘We may be able to do this,’” Felton said.
He was won over by how Pittman and Williams recruit Barber.
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“You know how you can get an SEC coach that’s kind of standoffish but the position coach is really hard at it and then you get the head coach and the position coach really working together, this is one of those cases where they both shared the same amount of interest. But the biggest thing to me was how genuine they were,” Felton said. “I’m from Florida, so I know crap when I hear it and see it.”
Felton was also impressed with Williams’ focus on building relationship with his players.
“Coach T-Will started out with this spiritual video...about all his former players and building a relationship, whether they were good or bad,” Felton said. “The relationship, whether they flourished into NFL players or not, they still went on to become great men and that’s one of the things he focused on.”
Williams coached linebacker Cassanova McKinzy at Auburn before he went on to play for the Washington Commanders.
“He reached out to T-Will and asked him to be his kids’ godfather,” said Felton, who is familiar with McKinzy. “Knowing Cassanova and knowing he did that, I’m like, ‘OK. The T-Will deal is real. I know that’s real right there.’”
Felton FaceTimed his wife while talking to Pittman, and that led to her promising another trip to Fayetteville would likely happen in April.
“She immediately made him a promise,” Felton said. “She’s not going to drive, of course, so I’m going to make another trip driving. We've got to go to Oklahoma on the 21st, so we might stop by on the way to Oklahoma.”
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