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As a whole, Arkansas’ linebacker corps will be a relatively old group by the 2005 season, and Razorbacks coaches are taking necessary steps to reload the positions in the 2005 class.
Currently listed as co-starters on Arkansas’ post-spring depth chart, Mike linebackers Clarke Moore and Sam Olajubutu will be seniors. Starting Sam linebacker Pierre Brown will also be a senior, and backup Desmond Sims will be a junior. There is concern at wolf linebacker, as well. Projected starting wolf linebacker Marcus Whitmore will be out of eligibility and backup Michael Robinson will be in his final year.
Searcy (Ark.) linebacker Weston Dacus, 6-foot-2, 228 pounds, 4.64 seconds in the 40-yard dash and Tulsa (Okla.) Union linebacker Zach Snider, 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, 4.65 seconds in the 40, will join the Razorbacks for the 2004 season and will be classified as either sophomores or redshirt freshmen in 2005. That will leave seven scholarship linebackers to fill three spots – that is not enough in the SEC. For 2006, there are only four Arkansas linebackers on the current roster.
2004 Arkansas signee Fred Fairchild, 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, 4.6 seconds in the 40, is likely headed to Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham (Va.), so the Hogs should bring him back for 2005. There is a pair of talented instate prospects who have drawn scholarship offers from Arkansas, but Razorbacks coaches are also looking to Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Tennessee for quality play at the positions.
Little Rock (Ark.) Central’s Antwain Robinson has an Arkansas offer, and he is the No. 6 player on the HawgSports.com Natural 21, a list of the top players in the Natural State for 2005.
Robinson is favoring Arkansas, but he also has interest in Oklahoma, Florida and others. Arkansas is the only program to have extended a scholarship offer to Robinson, and Robinson was one of the first players offered by the Hogs.
“Arkansas, it’s still my top school,” Robinson said.
Last season, Robinson racked up 81 tackles, 12 sacks and 3 fumble recoveries for the 14-0, Class 5A state champion Lions.
Bearden (Ark.) linebacker Ben Owens, 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, 4.6 seconds in the 40, did it all last year for 8-4, Class 2A Bearden. On offense, he toted the ball 151 times for 1,327 yards and 19 touchdowns. He registered 81 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 interceptions on defense.
From a small school, Owens needed a little recognition from the summer camp circuit to get his recruitment on the move. That came with an early Memphis camp where Owens dropped a 4.55-second time in the 40-yard dash. He also stood out at the rainy Texas A&M NIKE Training Camp on May 1, and he ran a 4.63-second 40 at the Houston Nutt Camp in Fayetteville (Ark.) on June 6.
Arkansas offered Owens in late May, along with Louisiana-Monroe. While in Conway for Arkansas Governors School, the 4.0-student received offers from Vanderbilt and Arkansas State. He is still in AGS and will be until July 24.
“Arkansas has really pushed their way up there,” Owens said. “It’s really coming down to Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Miami and Memphis.”
Owens recently scored 20 on the ACT, and he is rated the No. 10 prospect in the state by HawgSports.com.
Arkansas coaches are also keeping their eyes on Jacksonville’s Clinton McDonald, 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, 4.8 in the 40, Sylvan Hills’ Hezekiah Smith, 5-foot-10, 187 pounds, 4.7 seconds in the 40, and Dumas’ Robert Mingo, 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, 4.7 in the 40. Smith picked up his first offer last week from Louisiana-Monroe.
In the Lone Star State, Arkansas in known to be hot on the trail of Spring (Texas) Westfield’s Chris Mitchell.
Mitchell, 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, participated in the NIKE Camp in College Station (Texas) on May 1, like several other Arkansas prospects. There, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, did 23 reps in the 185-pound bench press, vertical leaped 31 inches and ran the shuttle in 4.32 seconds.
Mitchell reports a bench press max of 405 pounds, and his squat max is 465. Last season through 10 games, he recorded 53 tackles, 2 sacks and 1 interception. He was named one the top five linebackers at the U.S. Army All-America Combine in San Antonio (Texas) after the season.
SMU offered Mitchell a scholarship soon after the May Evaluation Period, and several other offers may be in the works. Mitchell is interested in Arkansas for one reason right now, and one reason only – he wants to know what former Westfield teammate, and starting Arkansas left tackle, Tony Ugoh found in Fayetteville (Ark.).
“I’m not familiar with anything as of right now, but Tony Ugoh, one of my former teammates, he committed to OU at first, but then he went to Arkansas, saw the atmosphere and the program and changed his mind,” Mitchell said.
Last season, he made 53 tackles, 2 sacks and 1 interception through 10 games for Westfield.
Arkansas is also showing strong interest in Hallsville (Texas) linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy, 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, 4.5 seconds in the 40. Muckelroy recently listed Arkansas among his top four favorites. Texas and Texas A&M man the top spots on his list.
“I’ve got a top four. I don’t really have anyone for that fifth spot yet,” Muckelroy told Orangebloods.com’s Jason Suchomel. “Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Arkansas would be the top four.”
Cedar Hill (Texas) backer Cedric Godfrey, 6-foot-1, 216 pounds, 4.62 seconds in the 40, lists Arkansas in his top two, along with Kansas. Missouri and Vanderbilt also make his early list. He received his first offer from Baylor.
Godfrey had an impressive showing at the Texas A&M NIKE Camp. Along with his 4.62-second 40, he did 19 reps in the 185-pound bench and vertical leaped 29 inches.
“I just like them, the Jayhawks and the defense…and the coaches are real cool and nice,” Godfrey said. “The coaches, the Razorbacks’ defense, and the campus, and the criminal justice department [are reasons I like Arkansas]. I’m going there this year for and official visit.”
Godfrey sports a 2.9 GPA and has scored 16 on the ACT. He made 44 tackles and 5 sacks for Cedar Hill in 2003.
Tulsa (Okla.) East Central linebacker Popsey Floyd, 6-foot-1, 222 pounds, 4.6 seconds in the 40, is receiving strong looks from Arkansas and several other top programs.
Floyd has run 40 times in under 4.5 seconds, and he ran the fastest time at the A&M NIKE among linebackers with a 4.6. He also had the top performance among linebackers in the 185-pound bench with 29 reps.
Floyd made the OKPrepXtra.com Oklahoma HS Top 20 Players to Watch, coming in at No. 6. He also made the OKPrepXtra.com First Team Pre-season All-State Team (for large schools only).
Floyd plans to visit Arkansas next for its Seniors Only Camp on July 23-24. There is a chance he will attend a one-day Texas camp, but he is not certain.
“It’ll be my first time [to Arkansas] when I go,” Floyd said. “I heard the facilities and everything are really, really nice, and I heard the coaching staff is really, really good.
“Others besides Arkansas - the Texas coach called me about a one-day deal, but I haven’t gotten back with him.”
Floyd also camped at Kansas State. His performance there led to a scholarship offer from the Wildcats. Tulsa has also extended an offer. If Floyd performs in Fayetteville the way he has at Texas A&M, Kansas State and Oklahoma, expect the Razorbacks to extend one too.
Floyd reports 133 tackles and an eye-popping 29 sacks off last season’s 11-1 squad.
One of the nation’s top linebacker prospects is Memphis (Tenn.) Harding Academy’s Todd Cox, 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, 4.45 seconds in the 40, and Arkansas is one of several to extended an offer.
Cox is considering Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Southern Cal and Tennessee, and each of his favorites have offered. Rivals.com rates him the No. 6 athlete in the country and the nation’s No. 57 player, regardless of position.
“I feel like all of the schools are recruiting very hard,” Cox told USCFootball.com. “No one stands out really as to who is recruiting the hardest.”
Cox told this writer the same in late April.
“All the schools are recruiting me the same really right now,” Cox told HawgSports.com. “I’m getting letters from every school every day.”
Cox carried 85 times for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns at running back last year, but his future is at linebacker.
Arkansas is also in the hunt for Memphis Whitehaven’s Ladoran Williams, 6-foot, 225 pounds, 4.6 seconds in the 40. Williams is also considering Memphis, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Arkansas State.
Bastrop (La.) linebacker Rogers Loche, 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, 4.59 in the 40-yard dash, has several scholarship offers, and he is listing Arkansas, Texas A&M and Ole Miss as his current top three. He hopes to make a decision before his senior season and no later than midway through it.
Loche has camped at LSU and Ole Miss already, and he has plans to attend Texas A&M (July 18) and Arkansas (July 23). So, he will have taken a good look at each of his favorites before he makes a decision.
Former Arkansas wide receiver Michael Williams was one of Loche’s assistant coaches until after Loche’s sophomore year. Williams and Loche still keep in touch.
“The advice he gave me, ever since he told me how the program was and how much he learned there and about the coaches, that made me interested in Arkansas from jump,” Loche said. “I’m just going off what I’ve heard, but I’m looking forward to taking a visit.”
Loche totaled 119 tackles, 9 sacks, 4 interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries for the 12-1 Rams last season. In addition to his 4.59-second 40-time, Loche ran the shuttle in 4.3 seconds at LSU and he vertical leaped 37 inches.
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