Arkansas coaches have talked plenty about needing a fullback in the 2016 class that can be a thumper and appear to have one coming in Columbia, Mo., Rock Bridge standout Hayden Johnson.
Johnson (6-4, 255) has plans to be on hand at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Saturday to see Arkansas (1-2) play Texas A&M (3-0.
“I’m excited about getting a chance to see Arkansas play and to be in the stadium,” Johnson said. “I am really looking forward to it.”
Johnson committed to Arkansas this summer right before getting offers from Florida State and Nebraska.
“Both of those are great schools and have great programs and I was honored to get those offers,” Johnson said. “But I am solid to Arkansas and that’s where I plan to play my college football.
He is surprised that Arkansas has started out 1-2, but that has not weakened his pledge to the Razorbacks
“Not one bit,” Johnson said. “They have some things not go there way and certainly had a bunch of injuries, but I believe in the coaches and what they are building up there."
“I am excited that I am going to get to be a part of that and hope that I can come in and help as soon as possible.”
His Rock Bridge team has started the season 2-3 going into Friday night’s game against Jefferson City.
The Bruins will go into that off a 22-0 win over Columbia Hickman last weekend.
“We have just been a couple of plays away in our losses, but I think we are getting healthy and getting closer to becoming the team that I thought we could be,” Johnson said.
Johnson has 4 catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, 34 total tackles, 5 sacks and 7 quarterback hurries on defense so far this season.
He had 67 tackles and nine sacks as a junior while also rushing for 280 yards and nine touchdowns as a Wildcat quarterback.
“I was a little hurt at the start of the season, but I feel like I am playing pretty well now and just trying to get better every night,” Johnson said.
Johnson recently faced Lee’s Summit where former Arkansas player Limbo Parks is an assistant coach.
He had 11 tackles, one tackle for lost yardage and two quarterback hurries in a 27-19 loss.
“He is really excited for me that I am going to sign with Arkansas and he was just telling me great things about the school and the fans and the program,” Johnson said. “It was great to hear that from someone who has been around the program.”
• • •
Arkansas assistant Clay Jennings, one of the coaches who recruit Texas for the Razorbacks, knows a win on Saturday would help the team’s morale as well as recruiting.
"Right now, a win like this would do a whole heck of a lot for us, period. But as far as the recruiting trail, I think it gives a little more validity as far as where this program is headed," Jennings said. "We've stubbed our toe a little bit, but we're still getting a lot of great responses from kids whether it be on the phones, doing our phone calls at night, direct messages and whatnot and writing letters.
"Having an opportunity to go into Texas -- which is essentially our back yard and we treat it like a second home -- it would be great for our program." -
The Razorbacks have 13 players on their roster from Texas and two commitments in the 2016 class in Byron Nelson Trophy Club offensive lineman Kellen Diesch and Arlington Lamar receiver Kofi Boateng.
Both of those players plan to be at the game as do several other Dallas-Fort Worth area prospects.
Arkansas can host on unofficial visits because the Razorbacks are the home team this season.
Razorback head coach Bret Bielema is very clear that he thinks this game in Arlington helps him in recruiting Texas.
The opportunity to play Texas A&M in Dallas through 2024 was set up by former Arkansas player and current Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
“For us in recruiting, I don’t care what kind of NFL fan you are, you mention the name Jerry Jones and kids are going to pay attention and to his family and what they have brought to our university and the Cowboys is pretty special,” Bielema said.
“I am not involved in those decisions, they were made before I got here, but for us personally it couldn’t get any better and hopefully it is something that will continue. I know it is contracted out for a long, long time so I hope it continues.”
Several of Arkansas assistant coaches hit the road after Thursday’s practice and were in Texas high schools recruiting on Friday morning.
“Of course, recruiting in the state of Texas, we get more and more players every year from that state and will continue to go forward,” Bielema said. “… It is definitely an area of interest and a high market for us in recruiting.”