Ashdown head coach Matt Richardson knows talent when he sees it.
After all, he once was on the Blinn, Texas, Junior College staff that had a quarterback named Cam Newton, who went on to success at Auburn and is now starring in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers.
He could see that he had a big-time talent in junior safety Montaric Brown (6-1, 180, 4.5) and just needed to get the word out about him.
“He really had a good season for us, but a lot of people did not know him so I got a highlight tape made for him and sent it out to everybody I could,” Richardson said. “The next thing you know Arkansas, Alabama, Arkansas State, Oklahoma State, LSU and others were all calling us about him and his recruiting just kind of took off.”
Brown suddenly found himself with offers from Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma State and LSU and Arkansas jumped in with his fifth offer after he took an unofficial visit to Fayetteville to check out the Razorbacks.
That list soon jumped to 10 and he suddenly became a household name in Arkansas and in the SEC recruiting circles.
He’s also the No. 1 player in this year’s Hawgs Illustrated Top 22 rankings of the top 2017 prospects in the state.
“He’s just a great kid and has handled all this extremely well and remained humble,” Richardson noted. “That being said, I think it has given him a great dose of confidence – not arrogance, built confidence – that he truly has the opportunity and potential to be a great player.”
Brown had 122 tackles last season, 8 tackles for lost yardage, 9 pass break ups, a forced fumble and five interceptions, three of which he took back for touchdowns.
“The thing about those three he took back for touchdowns is they all came in the first three games,” Richardson said. “(Mena head coach) Tim Harper made it clear to be that he would not be throwing over there in our game in week four.
“Not many people threw his way the rest of the season, but he still came up big in every other aspect.”
Richardson begin to think he needed to get the ball to Brown in other ways and he ended up catching 7 passes for 108 yards and another score.
“I was thinking he’s touched the ball three times and scored three times,” Richardson said. “We have got to get him the ball on offense as well. We did it and he made it four touchdowns in four games on four touches.”
Alabama wide receivers coach Billy Napier recently came through Ashdown and made an interesting observation.
“Coach Napier told me that he believes that Montaric could be a great Division I receiver and you have to remember he is Alabama’s wide receivers coach,” Richardson said. “But he also said that safety is his spot.
“He said a lot of kids can run away from contact, but not many run to it. That’s what Montaric does and he arrives there with violent impact.”
Brown has recently reduced his list to seven schools with an announcement looming on his birthday August 24.
Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State make up his final seven.
Brown admits that the Razorbacks are the leaders of the pack, something that he reiterated after visiting Arkansas for the Red-White game on April 23.
He got a chance to visit with the Arkansas coaches after the game.
“"We talked about the depth chart and how I'm a really good fit for Arkansas," Brown said. "That's why I liked it because I'm a great fit. That's my dream school. I really liked it out of all my trips. It was the best trip I've taken."
Razorback freshman defensive end McTelvin Agim, the state’s top 2016 prospect, is doing his own recruiting of Brown.
"He was recruiting me," Brown said. "He really wants me to come there because he knows I'm a great fit. He's getting me to lean there. I'm really thinking about Arkansas pretty heavily."
Brown plans visits this summer to Arkansas, Auburn and Baylor before announcing his decision.
“It’s been a blessing to have all these opportunities,” Brown said. “I’ll take all these visits and then be ready to get it done on my birthday and before we start our season.”
Brown is one of two Ashdown defensive backs that are considered Division I prospect as LaDarius Bishop has already been offered by Baylor.
“They really feed off of each other,” Richardson said. “They go hard in the weight room and are great competitors.
“LaDarius recently ran a 4.56 laser time at The Opening,” Richardson said. “He is power cleaning 250 and deadlifting around 400.”
Richardson believes there is also another bonafide Division I prospect in sophomore quarterback Jaden Hill (6-3, 200), who passed for 1,069 yards and eight touchdown in his first high school season.
Hill already has offers from Louisiana Tech and Arkansas State.
“Jaden may turned out to be the best of them all,” Richardson said. “He already has an offer from Louisiana Tech and I am sure that is just the first of many."
Ashdown finished 8-4 last season with a first-round Class 4A playoff win over Stuttgart (26-25) and a second-round loss to eventual finalist to Prairie Grove (34-24).
“I think we have as many as eight kids on the team this season who are Division I prospects and so I am very excited about coaching them and helping them develop.”
• • •
1. Montaric Brown, S, 6-1, 180, Ashdown
2. Koilan Jackson, WR, 6-3, 207, Pulaski Robinson
3. Kirby Adcock, OL, 6-5, 285, Nashville
4. Taylor Powell, QB, 6-1, 200, Fayetteville
5. Akial Byers, DL, 6-5, 290, Fayetteville
6. Jarrod Barnes, WR, 5-11, 175, Cabot
7. B.J. Thompson, TE-DE, 6-6, 200, England
8. David Porter, DE, 6-4, 230, Pulaski Robinson
9. Dezmon Jackson, TB, 5-10, 200, Parker’s Chapel
10. Josh Johnson, WR, 5-10, 170, Central Arkansas Christian
11. Monta Thomas, TB, 5-11, 195, Hermitage
12. Cualan Williams, WR, 6-3, 200, Lafayette County
13. Pierre Strong, TB, 6-1, 185, Little Rock McClellan
14. Jonathan Adams, WR, 6-3, 180, Jonesboro
15. Demekko Clarke, TB, 5-9, 200. Blytheville
16. Hunter Moreton, OL, 6-1, 275, Fort Smith Southside
17. Damon Nelson, OL, 6-2, 304, Springdale Har-Ber
18. Darius Hopkins, TB, 6-1, 175, Nashville
19. Alex Day, TB, 5-8, 190, North Little Rock
20. Myles Fells, ATH, 5-10, 185, Pulaski Robinson
21. Sanderson Hines, OL, 6-2, 308, Pulaski Robinson
22. Hayden Moehring, K, 5-9, 175, Bentonville
• • •
TOP 11 FOR 2018
1. Conner Noland, QB, 6-2, 185, Greenwood
2. Gerry Bohannon, QB, LB, 6-4, 215, Earle
3. J.T. Smith, ATH, 6-2, 170, Riverview
4. LaDarius Bishop, CB, 6-0, 180, Ashdown
5. Nathan Page, WR-CB, 5-11, 185, Pulaski Robinson
6. Alejandro Ramirez, DT, 6-2, 310, Springdale Har-Ber
7. Kam’ron Mays Hunt, WR, 6-0, 165, Bentonville
8 Billy Ferrell, DT, 6-3, 300, Fordyce
9. Larry Clark, OL, 6-4, 270, Blytheville
10. Layne Hatcher, QB, 6-0, 192, Pulaski Academy
11. Hunter Swoboda, LB, 6-4, 190, Pulaski Robinson