In its quest to shore up its defense with an older free safety, it appears the University of Arkansas has plans to go West.
John West that is.
West, a 6-2, 193-pound junior college star for the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, N.D., will officially visit Arkansas on Dec. 2-4.
He was a first-team preseason All-American and is a mid-term graduate meaning he would be able to go through spring practice.
"I've never been down there to Arkansas, but I am excited about what I have found out about them," West said. "They have a great program in the SEC, a lot of fan support since they are the only team there and have sent a whole bunch of safeties on to the NFL. I'd be crazy not to be interested."
West, who has two interceptions and over 50 tackles this season, will visit Fayetteville and then follow that up with a visit to Kansas State - likely on Dec. 10-12.
Those two schools join Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona State and Colorado in trying to get West on campus before he makes his decision.
"Right now I am going to visit Arkansas for sure and likely Kansas State," West said. "I don't know about any of the others. When you are graduating in the middle of the year and the season goes long, it doesn't leave much time.
"But I have done a lot of research on all the teams and Arkansas and Kansas State are the main ones I wanted to lock down visits with," West said. "Those are my top two right now and Arkansas is in great shape with me."
West is being recruited by Arkansas assistant Mike Markuson, who has a long-time friendship with his coach and has been up to see West recently.
"He seems like a real friendly guy, but one who is intense when he needs to be and is serious about his job and how I can help them," West said. "I like someone who means business. That is what I am about these days. Making the most out of the time I have."
West, who had 110 tackles, seven interceptions and six sacks his senior season at Oak Creek High in the Milwaukee area, has blossomed into one of the nation's best junior college prospects.
"He has turned into a great player for us," NDSCS head coach Mike Beagle said. "He has great closing speed, is a very intense individual who is a big hitter, loves contact and brings it to practice every day and carries that on into the games. He has a great work ethic and is someone who actually enjoys practice. Those kind of guys are hard to find."
West said there are a couple of other reasons why he has set up the Arkansas visit first and is leaning toward the Razorbacks.
"For one thing I am in North Dakota and it is very cold here and I am definitely wanting to go somewhere where it is warmer," West said. "But that aside, I want to play in a great conference and on TV and Arkansas and the SEC will make that happen."
Colorado and Wisconsin were the key schools involved with West in high school at Oak Creek.
"I had to leave school a lot to take care of a family member and didn't get the time to put into my books that I should have so I couldn't go to a big school right away because of my grades," West said. "But my mom was great and it got to the point where she wanted me to get out of town and get away from some of the bad influences that were in our neighborhood.
"It's been great for me for here," West added. "I have turned into a better student, a better player and a better person while I have been here. It's been a lifesaver for me and I have a future that is bright now."
Beagle agreed with that assessment of West, who has also blocked a pair of punts this season and who had 73 tackles and three interceptions in his freshman campaign.
"He has really matured as a player and a person and as a student while he has been here," West said. "He is a great young man, the kind you love having over to dinner and someone who has just happened to have also made it happen on the football field. He's become a leader for us and it's been a joy to watch how far he has come."
NDSCS is 4-5 this season, but has done well enough in it conference action to clinch a berth in this Saturday's Midwest Football Conference West Divisional Title game against Iowa Central Community College (7-2) at 1 p.m. in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
It is actually a rematch of last week's regular season game in which Iowa Central rolled NDSCS 35-12 while Grand Rapids CC and Joliet CC are meeting in the Eastern Division title game.
The two winners will play in the Graphic Edge Bowl's feature game at 3 p.m. on November 20th at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls while the losers will play in a consolation game at noon in the same arena.
"We are definitely in the bowl because of our win over Ellsworth (18-10 in week 8), it's now just seeing which time we play at," Beagle said. "We will finish up this week at Iowa Central and I think we will play much better than we did last week."
This is the first year that nine Illinois and Iowa junior college teams have played together in what is called the Midwest Football Conference.
"This has been great for us this year because we know only play each team one time a year and we are split into divisions and it's high-quality football," Beagle said. "One thing that John and our other players on defense have gotten this season is a lot of variations on the top of offenses they go up against, It might be a spread one game and then a power running team the next. It has prepared him for the next level better than we could have ever imagined."
West is ready to finish up his junior college career and move on to the next level.
"I really feel like I am ready to make that step and I look forward to what is in my future," West said. "I consider myself very lucky to have grown up as a man and a player while I've been here. Now I just want to find the rest place to keep growing as a person and a player next year."
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