Middle of the Second

FAYETTEVILLE — It wouldn't be surprising to at all if Arkansas incoming freshman Cord Gray becomes a fan favorite just as much for his infectious personality and bubbly laugh as his play on the football field.

I was reminded what a joy the polite and personable Gray, a 6-foot, 285-pound defensive lineman from Wynne, is to be around while interviewing him Monday during a break in between his East team's pair of practices for Friday night's Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star Game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

The 7 p.m. gridiron contest will cap a week of festivities in Fayetteville for hundreds of football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball and soccer stars from all over the state.

"This all-star game is going to be a good one and I am already having fun," Gray said. "I'm playing with all my high school buddies for the last time before we go on and do our thing in college. We are out there just running around and having fun. I'm just looking forward to chilling out with the guys and making some new friends."

Gray is one of 10 Arkansas signees and recruited walk-ons slated to play in the game, a group that also includes East teammates in Pulaski Oak Grove tailback Darren McFadden, North Little Rock cornerback Jamar Love, Little Rock Mills safety Elston Forte and Sylvan Hills linebacker Kevin Hubbard, while walk-on quarterback Clark Irwin of Little Rock Central is also a member of that squad.

The Razorback signees on the West squad include Texarkana tailback Brandon Barnett, Russellville offensive lineman Joey Crossland while expected UA walk-ons playing for the West include tight end Mitch Petrus of Carlisle and wideout Lucas Miller of Greenwood.

"We've got a great group of guys here that are coming up to be Razorbacks," said Gray, whose every quote in this column was followed by a hearty laugh. "I'm very excited about the future of Razorback football."

He will admit to a little apprehension about new UA defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, a high-intensity guy who put the defense through a rigorous workout during the spring that included up-downs for loafing.

"I talked to him on my recruiting visit and he was all nice and all that," Gray said. "I haven't seen that mean side of him yet, but I know it's coming. I heard about those up-downs. That kind of scared me for a little bit."

Gray said he's been preparing for his arrival in Fayetteville and what Herring might be getting ready to put him through.

"I've been running, hitting the weights and working on some drills to help my footwork," Gray said. "I'm just trying to stay in shape. I am just trying to better myself each day. Time is precious so I just try to take all my time and do something productive with it."

"I've been working out every day and staying in contact with Coach Campbell," Gray said. "I am supposed to get up here for good the first of July and start summer classes. I'm looking forward to getting up here and working out with the guys."

Gray knows an opportunity to play on the defensive line as a true freshman is there, but it's one he will have to show he is worthy of when he gets to Fayetteville.

"They are always talking about when we get here the goal is getting on the bus," Gray said. "I'm just trying to take that as a challenge and just trying to do what they say. I'm anxious to start working out with the guys and doing what I think I can do to get on the field. I was want to stay mean on the field and do my thing."

Although it was pretty hot in Fayetteville on Monday, Gray said the heat didn't get to him.

"The heat wasn't too bad," Gray said. "I'm pretty used to it getting up and working all day. They had us in a 50 front and me playing the four and the five, playing end some and rushing up, but mostly I will be playing defensive tackle."

Gray has indeed been up bright and early every morning to work this summer.

"I've been getting up at 6 o'clock every day and going to work," Gray said. "I've been working maintenance on some houses and apartments and just taking care of what needs to be done, fixing things, mowing lawns, that type of thing. I've stayed pretty busy."

Arkansas would love to double its pleasure when it comes to signing Wynne defensive lineman by inking L.T. Walker (6-4, 285) for its 2006 class.

"I talk to L.T. every now and then although he lifts in the morning while I am working and I lift at night," Gray said. "The only thing I tell him is to keep lifting weights, keep running and just stay him -- work hard every day and just try to better yourself every day."

Hoop Notes
Springdale Har-Ber High junior-to-be Michael Sanchez (6-8, 210), who played at Springdale High last season, will fly to Richmond, Va., today and begin action Wednesday as one of a select 100 underclassman invited to attend the National Basketball Player's Association Camp.

Sanchez is on the same camp team as Bolivar (Tenn.) Central senior-to-be point guard Willie Kemp and is expected to room with him at this event as well as the Reebok ABCD Camp in Teaneck, N.J. on July 4-9.

Other players expected to be at the NBPA event that Arkansas is recruiting include Memphis prep standouts Thaddeus Young (6-8, 200) and Pierre Niles (6-8, 275) and Michigan standout Ramar Smith (6-3, 185).

DUDLEY E. DAWSON IS A STAFF WRITER FOR HAWGS ILLUSTRATED, A STEPHENS MEDIA GROUP PUBLICATION. HIS COLUMN APPEARS EACH TUESDAY. E-MAIL: DEDSPORTS@AOL.COM

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