Shelley, Thornton, McFadden top Arkansas' Top 30

An early look at the Top 30 college football prospects that are currently juniors in Arkansas in what will be a monthly poll voted on by four gridiron analysts - Mike Capshaw, Brett Bradley, Pat Jenkins and Dudley E. Dawson - who cover recruiting in the state.

Fort Smith Southside's Slick Shelley received two of four No. 1 votes to earn the top spot in our initial Top 30 Arkansans of 2005.

Shelley is a silky smooth receiver with soft hands who's already attracting interest from several top college programs, including Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Florida, Iowa, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Southern Cal and Tennessee.

"I'm interested in all of them," Shelley said. "I'm wide open right now and it'll probably be next year before I really look at all the schools."

One thing which may have helped boost Shelley's recruitment at this early stage is the fact he went on record with The Morning News in October, stating he "liked Arkansas," but didn't follow any team growing up since he was an Army brat and moved often.

Statements like that light up the eyes of out-of-state recruiters. As most who try to recruit this state know, beating the Razorbacks for a prospect in their own backyard isn't easy.

So when a prospect sounds like a lock to sign with Arkansas, most outside recruiters take that as a given and move on to the next prospect.

In Shelley's case, he truly sounds open to all options.

"I'm going to look at everything," Shelley said. "And the main thing will be finding a school that's really committed to passing the ball because that'll help me improve my chances of getting to the next level."

Little Rock Central's Kevin Thornton received one first-place vote and three second place votes to rank No. 2 in our initial balloting.

Thornton is one of three prospects from Central's AAAAA State Championship squad in the top 10 and one of four in the top 30. Central receiver Stewart Franks, voted the MVP of the state title game, is No. 8, defensive end Antwain Robinson is No. 10 and running back Mickey Dean is No. 23.

A strong case for the top spot was made for Darren McFadden, who comes in at No. 3 after receiving one first, one second and two third-place votes.

All four No. 4 votes went to Sylvan Hills strong safety Hezekiah Smith and North Little Rock athlete Jamar Love was the consensus No. 5.

Smith — like most prospects other than Shelley — believes his ranking is not quite where it needs to be and knows ways to improve his standing include sending out highlight films and performing well in camps and combines to draw in more interest.

"It's all right, but I think it should be higher," said Smith, who has Arkansas, Alabama, Iowa and Oklahoma State, among others, already on his trail. "Come watch me and I'll show you."

Votes were split among the next five spots with Texarkana center Walter Archie coming in at No. 6, Centerpoint defensive end Wes Patton at No. 7, Franks at No. 8, Wynne defensive tackle Cord Gray at No. 9 and Robinson at No. 10.

Russellville big-man Joey Crossland is a guy who could see his stock raise dramatically since deciding to play on both sides of the ball this fall. He's mostly been used at defensive tackle so far, but his size could make him an excellent offensive tackle prospect.

"I'm going to try it both ways and hopefully better my chances of getting a scholarship," said Crossland, who already is receiving interest from Arkansas as well as the usual out-of-state suspects such as Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Tennessee. "Right now, I'm interested in any school that's interested in me."

Folks throughout the state continue to send in tips on Dumas athlete Robert Mingo, who could end up higher than No. 12 once voters see his junior highlight film.

All reports on Pine Bluff linebacker Jared Dorn have been favorable as well. He recorded a state-high 165 tackles last season in leading the Zebras to a 10-2 record and into the AAAAA semifinals, where they lost to eventual state champ Central.

"I just want to play football in college," Dorn said. " It's always been my goal to get a free education, earn a degree and do something with it.

"And all I need is a chance."

A pair of Blytheville prospects, quarterback Brice Beck (No. 17) and receiver Chris Smith (No. 19), have been making quite a bit of noise in recruiting circles and have reportedly been offered scholarships by East Carolina already. They're also hearing from Arkansas, Ole Miss, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Beck played in just three and a half games last season before suffering a sprained knee, but his arm strength and past performances secured a No. 17 ranking.

Chris Smith comes in at No. 19 and may see his stock skyrocket after running a 4.38 second, 40-yard dash during a January combine in Birmingham, Ala.

It's the lowest known 40 time recorded by a in-state prospect in this class.

"I ran it, but it was just one time," Chris Smith said. "I'm probably a legit 4.5 and people don't realize how fast a 4.5 is ... It's flying."

Springdale heavy-hitter Matt Taylor reports an early scholarship offer from Arkansas State and could be another to watch.

o o o

1. Slick Shelley, WR, 6-3, 180, 4.4, Fort Smith Southside

2. Kevin Thornton, FS, 6-1, 190, 4.5, Little Rock Central

3. Darren McFadden, RB, 6-1, 185, 4.37, Pulaski Oak Grove

4. Hezekiah Smith, OLB-S, 6-0, 185, 4.5 Sylvan Hills

5. Jamar Love, SS, 6-2, 190, 4.41, North Little Rock

6. Walter Archie, C, 6-1, 305, 5.5, Texarkana

7. Wes Patton, OL, 6-6, 260. 4.9, Centerpoint

8. Stewart Franks, WR, 6-2, 190, 4.6, Little Rock Central

9. Cord Gray, DL, 6-2, 270, 5.03, Wynne

10. Antwain Robinson, DE-LB, 6-3, 220, 4.7, Little Rock Central

11. Joey Crossland, OL, 6-6, 305, 5.4, Russellville

12. Robert Mingo, DB, 6-2, 180, 4.5, Dumas

13. Brandon Bradford, FB-LB, 6-0, 250, 5.2, Malvern

14. Jared Dorn, LB, 6-2, 220, 4.8, Pine Bluff

15. Brandon Barrett, RB, 5-8, 175, 4.4, Texarkana

16. Bennie Washington, OL, 6-2, 285, 5.5, Rivercrest

17. Brice Beck, QB, 6-3, 225, 4.8, Blytheville

18. Ricardo Kemp, WR-DB, 5-11, 175, 4.5, Warren

19. Chris Smith, WR, 6-1, 175, 4.4, Blytheville

20. Matt Taylor, S, 6-3, 205, 4.6, Springdale

21. Kaming Kareem, ATH, 5-8, 155, 4.4, Sylvan Hills

22. David Hollis, OL, 6-1, 285, 5.1, Bryant

23. Mickey Dean, RB, 5-10, 185, 4.5, Little Rock Central

24. Brandon Ford, 6-2, 185, 4.4, El Dorado West Side Christian

25. Elston Forte, S, 6-1, 175, 4.5, Little Rock Mills

26. Cordero Mills, RB, 5-9, 165, 4.5, Little Rock McClellan

27. Reginald Arnold, RB, 5-9, 220, 4.5, Little Rock McClellan

28. Ben Owens, Jr., RB-LB, 6-2, 205, 4.6, Bearden

29. Brice Robinson, DL, 6-2, 291, 5.1, Conway

30. Darryl Adams, WR-DB, 6-0, 185, 4.6, Warren


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