It's My Middle

After a banner sophomore season in which he had 103 tackles and 7 interceptions, Springdale Har-Ber junior safety Houston Pruitt (5-11, 170, 4.7) is once again ready to patrol the middle of the field with an attitude and extreme physicality.

This past weekend's McDonald's Select 7-on-7 tournament on the University of Arkansas campus was all well and fine, but it's just not the kind of thing that turns on Springdale Har-Ber junior safety Houston Pruitt that much.

Now if they allowed the kids to put on pads and hit the receivers coming across the middle, well, then you have Pruitt's attention.

"I think of it as my middle and I don't want anybody to come across it," Pruitt said. "If they do, I try to give them a shot so they won't want to come back across there again."

Pruitt (5-11, 175, 4.7) certainly dished out plenty of shots last season while racking up a whopping 103 tackles, breaking up nine passes and picking off seven more.

"It was a big privilege for me to play up and I just tried to make the best of it," Pruitt said. "My teammates helped me out a lot. No way would I have done as good as I did without them. It was a really awesome season."

Pruitt, who became the first sophomore in the state to get an offer when Tulsa did so last winter, helped lead the Wildcats to a 10-3 mark and a 7A state runner-up finish in only the school's second year to field a varsity team.

"I think everybody thought it was going to be just like our first year and that they would just run us over," Pruitt said. "But we came out strong and had the will and had a team effort. We all worked together and pulled through."

Har-Ber head coach Chris Wood was obviously thrilled with the season he got out of Pruitt, who is one of the top prospects in a loaded 2010 class in the state of Arkansas.

"You really never know going in with a sophomore, but we knew he had the mental make-up and the toughness," Wood said. "He has that feel for the game and we watched him play 7-on-7 and everything was real smooth with him. Everything fell into place, he played hard every week and prepared himself and also had some good seniors around him that helped guide and lead him and show him the direction, Then he seized the moment."

There were plenty of receivers who realized Pruitt was back there waiting according to Wood.

"He hits, man he likes to hit and he likes to try and knock people out," Wood said. "He is going to be a physical presence and he is going to hit a wide receiver when they go over the middle or inside. I think you have got to have safeties back there when you say ‘yes, you might catch the ball, but you are going to pay for it.'"

Wood notes that Pruitt also has a knack for when to go for the ball and not the man.

"He really breaks on the ball well, has good hips and turns and opens quick and finds the ball," Wood added. "He made some big plays in coverage last season."

The early offer from Tulsa certainly revved up Pruitt, who will be one of just three starters coming back on Har-Ber's defense from last season.

"That was a blessing from God and it shocked me," Pruitt said. "I couldn't believe it and I was just so thankful for it, It was a neat thing and is probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me."

In addition to Tulsa, schools such as Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Kansas State have made their interest in Pruitt known via mail.

"Anytime you can get an early offer that just helps everything out," Wood said. "Every recruiting coordinator in the country knows what is going on and college coaches look for certain things. It helps to get the process started. I was really excited for him and his dad when I met with them to tell them about it.

"It just continues to build the hunger, determination and work ethic and it is a catalyst in all regards," Wood added. "It raises his game and any time you are raising your leader's game, it raises your team's game."

While Pruitt has not gotten to know the new Arkansas coaching staff that well yet, he does have an endorsement from one of his fellow safeties.

"One of my best friends – Matt Harris – plays free safety for the Razorbacks and he says he likes it a lot," Pruitt said. "The facilities and stuff are awesome."

Pruitt, also an outstanding baseball player, has been getting after it in the weight room this summer.

"I was in baseball during off-season and I then I got back into the weight room and I've been trying to put on some pounds," Pruitt said. "I would like to put on 10 more pounds."

That doesn't sound like good news for receivers on the Har-Ber schedule this season.

"I just want to get bigger and better and do what I can to help our team achieve its goals," Pruitt said. "Our main goal is to win the state championship and I believe that we can do that as long as we work together."

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