The forecast is calling for a 34-degree temperature at kickoff of Saturday’s Arkansas-Mississippi State game, but that doesn’t scare Hayden Johnson.
The three-star fullback from Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge High is one of three official visitors that will be in Fayetteville this weekend and he’s excited about the cold-weather game.
“I think I am (ready),” Johnson said. “It’s been pretty warm recently, but I think I’m ready for it to get a little cold. That’s football weather; there’s no doubt about that.”
Johnson, who committed to Arkansas in June, has seen the Razorbacks play twice this season. He was at their 28-21 overtime loss to Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas, as well as their 54-46 four-overtime win over Auburn in Fayetteville.
That means it’s been nearly a month since he’s seen his future teammates and future home in person.
“I’m really excited,” Johnson said. “I haven’t been down there since about four weeks ago for the Auburn game. I’m excited about getting down there and seeing the coaches again. I haven’t seen the new academic facility, so that will be pretty interesting to see.
“Just getting to see the whole campus again will be fun.”
While he knows his future includes playing with the Razorbacks, Johnson is still unsure on how soon he’ll be on campus.
He is considering enrolling early and is planning on getting more information about that option on his official visit.
“If I am going to go down early, then I need to decide pretty soon,” Johnson said. “We’re going to talk to the academic advisors on the official visit, which will kind of make it more clear to me and what my decision will be.”
Johnson would become the second commit expected to enroll at Arkansas for the spring 2016 semester if he decides to go that route, joining Hope four-star defensive end McTelvin Agim.
If he ends up staying at Rock Bridge next semester, Johnson said he is thinking about playing baseball, but will definitely continue working out, as he’s been doing since the Bruins’ season ended Oct. 23.
“Getting back in the weight room is great,” Johnson said. “Being able to go out and run on the field, working on agility, just working on getting quicker as an athlete is mainly what I’ve been doing.”
When Johnson hasn’t been able to watch Arkansas’ games in person, he’s been watching them on TV.
The current four-game winning streak hasn’t surprised him, despite the 1-3 start to the season.
“Last season they did kind of a similar thing, where they just turned it on halfway through the season and beat some big teams,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t really surprised when they did it this year. They’re finding gaps in the defenses and getting the run game going.”
Those wins have made his conversations with Arkansas’ coaches even more enjoyable. He said he talks to head coach Bret Bielema about every other week, as well as running backs coach Jemal Singleton. His main contact, though, is offensive coordinator Dan Enos.
“It’s great to talk to him about what’s going on in school and what’s happening down in Arkansas,” Johnson said. “He’s a great guy and it’s always good to talk to him about things outside of football.”
He plans on coming to the Missouri game the day after Thanksgiving, too, meaning he will watch Arkansas play four times during the regular season.
Seeing the Razorbacks in person is exciting for Johnson because he knows he’ll be a member of the team next season and he is ready to get back on the field and compete for playing time.
“I don’t know if you’ll ever really know if you’re ready to get in there, but all you can do is prepare yourself the best you can,” Johnson said. “I feel like I’m able to do that and I’ll see how I level up against the other players when I get down there.
“The fight for that starting spot is going to be big for me.”