Arkansas really hopes that next season it will be able to unleash "The Beast."
Scottsdale (AZ) Community College man-mountain defensive tackle Mike Pennel (6-5, 345) joined his tight end teammate Blake Jackson (6-4, 235) and Jacksonville (FL) First Coast middle linebacker Reggie Northrup (6-2, 225) in checking out the Arkansas program last weekend.
Pennel, nicknamed "The Beast" and Jackson are both mid-term graduates and plan to sign on Dec. 15th.
"It is clear to me that Arkansas has a great program and they are working real hard to bring in some guys to take it up even another level," Pennel said. "They want us to come in and be a part of that."
He walked away tremendously impressed.
"Man, I just had a great visit, the coaches and players were great and the crowd was just crazy," Pennel said. "It was my first SEC game and the atmosphere was even better than I could have imagined. There were like 80,000 Razorback fans and like 80 Tennessee ones. It just blew me away and I can really see myself playing in front of all those Razorback fans and just loving doing it."
The Colorado native was hosted this past weekend by current Razorback junior linebacker Alonzo Highsmith, who played his junior college football at nearby Phoenix College.
"We had a previous relationship and know each other because he used to play down the road from me there at Phoenix," Pennel said. "He was a great host and let me know everything I needed to know and was real up front with me. He's having a great year here for Arkansas."
The Razorback staff talked with Pennel about how they plan to use him if he signs with Arkansas.
"Obviously they are losing some guys and told me that I would come in and play both the one and the three (technique)," Pennel said, referring to whether he lines up as a noseguard over the center's outside shoulder (one) or as a true defensive tackle over the outside shoulder of the guard (three)."
Pennel is coming off a huge season at Scottsdale, which finished the regular season 7-4.
He had 37 tackles with a whopping 13 for lost yardage while also racking up two sacks, recovering two fumbles and causing one.
He did all these while constantly seeing double teams.
"As a team we didn't play at the level we needed to on a consistent basis and part of that was because we didn't have enough depth, but I felt like I went out there every game and tried to leave everything I had on the field," Pennel said "I saw a lot of blockers, but the coaches also moved me out to defensive end and let me get some snaps there so it was harder for them to scheme against me."
That's right, a 6-foot-5, 345-pounder lined up at defensive end making plays – something he could do because he is not your typical defensive lineman that just happens to be big.
"I'm fit, not fat, and I work hard at that," Pennel said. "I know a lot of big guys my size get tabbed as being lazy, but that's not the case with me. I constantly work out and am very careful with the food I eat. I know what could happen if I didn't plus even more than that I want to be a productive player on the next level and hopefully play in the NFL one day.
"I constantly stayed after practice and after the normal running to get more conditioning in and I did it on my own and not because someone told me I needed to do so," Pennel said. "I ran shuttles and just kept pushing and pushing myself during the season."
Pennel has a visit scheduled to Texas A&M on Thanksgiving weekend that he plans to keep, but any other visits are now up in the air.
"I was supposed to take a visit to Washington State, but I don't know if I am going to do that now," Pennel said. "Arkansas set the bar extremely high and it is going to be hard for anybody to top that.
"Ole Miss and Florida were also talking to me about visits, but with the coaching situation there at Ole Miss (Houston Nutt has been fired), that's so up in the air," Pennel added.
Pennel and Jackson will be making decisions soon and have talked about playing at the same place, but will make their decisions independent of the other.
"It would be great to both play at the same place, which I guess would be Arkansas since it is the only school that he and I are both looking at now," Pennel said. "But we really have to do what's best for each of us. One school might be better for me, another best for him."
Jackson echoed that sentiment.
"Mike is just huge, a force of nature," Jackson said. "We've talked about how it would be great playing together on the next level, but know we have to make the best individual decision for each of us."
Pennel was impressed with Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino as he has been with his chief recruiter Chris Klenakis.
"Coach Petrino is a famous guy, but he is real down to earth and was just very real with me about how they want me at Arkansas and how they could help develop me and get me to where I want to go," Pennel said.
"Coach Klenakis has been with me from the start," Pennel said. "He came to see me play and said he knew after three or four plays, I was just what they needed. Those are great guys and great coaches."
Unleash The Beast
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