The Main Man

In his weekly column, Dudley E. Dawson catches up with Pine Bluff junior-to-be quarterback Claude Johnson (6-1, 190, 4.4), who has been one of the stars of this week's University of Arkansas football camp. This story is sponsored by the Arkansas Toyota Dealers. It's free and so is a special offer to attend a Razorback event. Click on the Arkansas Toyota banner for details.




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Pine Bluff has a new mentality, a new classification, but thankfully the same quarterback.

He's junior Claude Johnson (6-1, 180, 4.4), who passed for over 1,200 yards and rushed for nearly that much and is certainly one of the top prospects on hand for Bobby Petrino's University of Arkansas Football Camp in Fayetteville this week.

Luckily for the University of Arkansas, he is a young man who loves the Razorbacks, who are among the schools already showing interest.

"Arkansas, Ole Miss, Alabama, Missouri State – a lot of schools," Johnson said. "But Arkansas is always going to be at the top of my list. They won't move. They are my home school. That's my team and that's not going to change."

He's enjoyed getting to know the UA coaching staff more this week at the camp, which ends up before noon on Wednesday.

"The Arkansas coaching staff reminds me a lot of ours," Johnson said. "They are teaching me a lot of things that I hadn't learn yet and that are going to make me a better player. This coaching staff is great."

He can't wait to start next season after helping a Pine Bluff team that had won only once in its last 20 games before winning its final two games of the season.

The Zebras, who are moving down from Class 7A to 6A, downed Cabot 27-25 and then routed North Little Rock 28-0 in its regular season finale.

"Toward the end of the season we finally learned how to win," Johnson said. "And we are going to take that right into this season."

Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding, who took over at the school last season, said that it was a beautiful thing to see happen – especially since the Zebras won those final two games without 14 players who were being disciplined and did not play.

"We felt like if we could just get a win sometime during the season, we could flip it immediately," Bolding said. "Our kids just lacked the confidence. We were in so many games and just couldn't get it done, but then we held on against Cabot and got a win and then I knew from there we were going to be fine. We just had one game left, but we put it on North Little Rock pretty good."

Bolding says the God-given talent is just one of Johnson's strengths.

"He is very dependable," Bolding said. "You can count on him being there. You can count on him to work hard and give you his best effort. He has tremendous arm and can make miss with his feet."

Bolding says that Johnson was not necessarily a vocal leader until late in the season.

"The thing he has tried to work on hard is being a leader," Bolding said. "Last year he was pretty quiet until the end of the year when he realized he was going to have to step up. That is just part of being a sophomore."

Talented tight end Chris Scott (6-4, 220) is transferring to Little Rock Central, but Johnson says that won't slow down the Zebras this season and notes they will have eight starters back on both sides of the ball.

"We lost a good player, but that is not going to stop us from winning the football games that we need to win," Johnson said. "We have a lot coming back, basically the whole starting lineup except for a couple of seniors."

He points out that all of those guys know how to get it done after holding on to the rope last season during the tough times.

"It really was a matter of just not giving up," Johnson said. "It would have been easy to do so since we weren't doing much, but we didn't and just kept fighting and that made us a better team."

Johnson has always been a great all-around athlete as evidenced by the fact that as a 12-year-old at the Ripkin World Serie he hit .714, won the home run derby and was named to the all-USA team.

"I think I have some talent, but I work hard at getting better every day," Johnson said. "I also feel like I am a good leader, but it is something that I can get better and will work toward."

Tidbits:

…Arkansas 2008 football signee Cruz Williams of Pulaski Academy will not be academically eligible to get into the University of Arkansas.

The 6-5, 200-pound wideout has visited Louisiana Tech and is considering his options.

...The Shootout of the South 7-on-7 passing tournament will be held in Little Rock on Friday beginning at 11:30 a.m. and continuing through late Saturday afternoon.

The field includes 20 teams from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Some of the players involved in the tournament that Arkansas is interested in include Pulaski Academy wideout Neal Barlow (6-7, 200), Warren wide receiver Quinn Fraklin (6-3, 180) and Allen (Texas) High WR Uzoma Nwachukwu (6-0, 186).





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