Signing Day: State schools stock up on local talent
Harding signee JAKE MADDING
The Bisons signed Wynne offensive lineman Corban Arnold (6-0, 250), a two-time all-state selection who helped Wynne finish as state runner-up two of the past three years. Arnold's high school coach Chris Hill became Harding's offensive coordinator in late December. Harding also signed Bentonville running back Jacob Clark (5-9, 205), Benton defensive lineman Chandler Clift (6-3, 260), Danville athlete Jake Madding (6-1, 190), Marked Tree defensive lineman Nick Andrews and Harding Academy defensive end Carter Sipe (6-4, 225).
Madding, a finalist for the Farm Bureau Insurance Awards Class 2A Defensive Player of the Year, lined up mostly at quarterback and safety this fall. He completed 24 of 42 passes for 336 yards and six touchdowns and ran 82 times for 1,056 yards and 11 TDs. Madding made 34 tackles on defense last year and 88 tackles and four INTs as a junior. Little John coach D.J. Crane calls Madding one of the better defensive backs in the state.
Either Henderson State or Ouachita Baptist won the first five GAC titles with plenty of players from Arkansas.
Henderson State's prolific offense centers around big-armed quarterbacks, and the Reddies went into North Central Arkansas for a pair of QB prospects. They signed Cave City's Joseph Patterson (6-8, 230) and Southside Batesville's Josh Millikan (6-0, 190). Patterson completed 71 percent of his passes and threw 31 TDs last season. Millikan, a three year starter, owns every Southside Batesville passing record.
The Reddies focused on in-state linemen to help shore up their defense with Russellville tackle Paul Chiolino (6-1, 275), Stuttgart end Mahkeem Cobbs (6-2, 220) and Smackover tackle Ashton Mullens (6-5, 255). Chiolino helped Russellville win its first state title by collecting 96 tackles, including 23 tackles for loss. He was all-conference as a junior, making 78 tackles, and played on Russellville's 2016 state championship baseball team. Cobbs, a two-time All-2-4A selection, made more than 150 tackles the past two seasons. Mullens was a two-time all-state performer for Smackover, racking up 78 tackles and five sacks last fall.
The Henderson State defense gets help from Conway linebacker Nick Fletcher (6-2, 220) and El Dorado cornerback Destin Miller (5-10, 175). Fletcher tallied 89 tackles last fall and 123 as a junior, while Miller made 130 tackles the past two seasons, including 65 stops in 2016.
Ouachita Baptist, winner of GAC titles in 2011 and 2014, perennially signs some of the state's top players. Warren QB/safety Hayden Lassiter, the Farm Bureau Insurance Awards Class 4A Defensive Player of the Year, is the centerpiece of OBU's 2017 signing class. Lassiter led Warren to a 15-0 record and state championship by completing 162 of 276 passes (59 percent) for 3,097 yards and 37 TDs. He also rushed for 1,070 yards and 15 TDs. Lassiter racked up more than 60 tackles on defense while lining up at end, linebacker and safety.
OBU signed England QB Brayden Brazeal (6-0, 168), who led the Lions to consecutive semifinals. Brazeal (in top photo), a finalist for the Farm Bureau Insurance Awards Class 2A Offensive Player of the Year, completed 211 of 318 passes (66 percent) for 3,954 yards and 50 TDs last season with just seven interceptions. He also ran for 562 yards and nine TDs. Watson Chapel advanced to the semifinals last season for the first time since 2010, and QB/receiver Jaquan Dorsey spearheaded the attack. Dorsey started at receiver for eight games and slid to QB for the final five. Dorsey completed 76 of 132 passes (58 percent) for 1,323 yards and 12 TDs with six interceptions. He also ran 89 times for 508 yards and nine TDs, and caught 38 passes for 597 yards and five TDs. “He dedicated himself to the program and making himself a better player,” Watson Chapel coach Jared Dutton says. “He was our glue.” Foreman QB/defensive back Tucker Hall signed with OBU after guiding the Gators to the second round of the playoffs. Ozark lineman Hunter Jackson (6-3, 275), whose brother plays at Arkansas State, and West Helena tackle Riley House (6-4, 270) also signed with Ouachita.
The Tiger defense gets a major boost from Little Rock Christian linebacker Austin Guymon (6-4, 200). Guymon's size made him a Division I prospect, but several schools backed off after a gruesome leg injury as a junior. Guymon returned this fall, taking the Warriors to the Class 5A quarterfinals by generating more than 600 yards offense at receiver and making 60 tackles. West Helena tackle Dameyon McDonald (6-1, 245) was courted by Division I schools over the past year, but signed with OBU Wednesday, along with El Dorado lineman Lake Tucker (6-3, 265). Tucker owned five other offers, including a Division I opportunity from Army. The Tigers also signed Nashville linebacker Hunter White (6-2, 185) and Des Arc linebacker Ontario Conway (6-0, 190).
OBU made splashes by signing Colony, Texas, cornerback Basil Shabazz II (6-1, 175), the son of the legendary Pine Bluff running back with the same name. Shabazz II racked up 28 tackles and one interception last fall.
Arkansas Tech inked an impressive list of players from the Natural State, including Russellville QB Cale Fulsom (6-3, 170), who led the Cyclones to the state title and earned 6A title game MVP. The Wonder Boys picked up another top QB from the River Valley by signing Hector's Tanner Gaines (6-2, 195). Gaines, a finalist for the Farm Bureau Insurance Awards Class 2A Offensive Player of the Year, passed for 2,323 yards and 26 TDs and ran for 1,161 yards and 16 TDs. Greenbrier QB Carter Burcham (6-1, 185), whose brother Neal played QB at SMU, signs with Arkansas Tech after passing for more than 2,200 yards and 29 TDs. The Wonder Boys grabbed one of the state's top receivers, Har-Ber's Trey Smith (5-8, 165). Smith earned all-state honors last season, catching 45 passes for 771 yards and 11 TDs.
The Wonder Boys ventured to Northwest Arkansas for help up front, signing Har-Ber offensive lineman Damon Nelson (6-2, 331), Elkins tackle Denton Foster (6-3, 260) and Prairie Grove tackle Jack Stone (6-5, 235). Nelson turned down multiple scholarship offers to sign with the Wonder Boys.
Fort Smith Northside end Darius Carson (6-3, 240), North Little Rock tackle Carlos Gordon (6-1, 240) and Bryant end Hayden Knowles (6-2, 235) bolster Arkansas Tech's defense. Prairie Grove cornerback Isaac Disney (6-0, 160), a finalist for the Farm Bureau Insurance Awards Class 4A Defensive Player of the Year, intercepted five passes and racked up 32 tackles in 2016, and was a force on offense with 33 catches for 813 yards and 11 TDs. Fayetteville brothers Blake Coulter (6-0, 170) and Trey Coulter (6-1, 170) and Heritage's Tae Dixon (5-11, 170) also signed with Arkansas Tech as cornerbacks.
Arkansas-Monticello signed 25 players from the state last season, and the Boll Weevils added another 15 this year, highlighted by North Little Rock running back Alex Day (5-10, 195). Day's brother Juan plays at Arkansas. Alex Day led North Little Rock to its first ever Class 7A state title game by rushing for 1,447 yards and 19 TDs in 10 games. He ran for 1,847 yards and 24 TDs as a junior. UAM's offense gets help from Warren lineman Devonta Brown (6-4, 265) and Rivercrest guard Freddy Ware (6-3, 350), the nephew of WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Coco B. Ware. UAM's defense gets a boost from Hamburg end Dylan Snow (6-4, 230), Cabot end Easton Seidl (6-3, 245), Crossett lineman Michael Jenkins and Blytheville linebacker Malik Smith (6-2, 205).
Southern Arkansas appears on the verge of competing for the GAC title, and the Muleriders signed some solid Arkansas prospects, including Warren running back Dennis Daniels (5-11, 190), who rushed for more than 1,600 yards despite playing injured in the final seven games. The Muleriders also picked up pledges from Texarkana receiver Michael Caldwell (6-4, 195) and White Hall running back Lance Smith (6-0, 205).
Arion Banks, DE, Marianna
Carter Burcham, QB, Greenbrier
Darius Carson, DE, FS Northside
Alex Chambers, DB, Morrilton
Blake Coulter, CB, Fayetteville
Trey Coulter, CB, Fayetteville
Isaac Disney, DB, Prairie Grove
Tae Dixon, DB, Heritage
Denton Foster, OL, Elkins
Cale Fulsom, QB, Russellville
Tanner Gaines, QB, Hector
Carlos Gordon, DL, North LR
Garrett Gray, OL, Russellville
Derek Gutierrez, K, FS Southside
Hayden Knowles, DL, Bryant
Jaquez Lock, CB, Malvern
Damon Nelson, OL, Har-Ber
Jacob Reed, TE, Russellville
Jacob Sharp, WR, Dover
Madison Shelton, OL, Jacksonville
Landon Smith, WR, Bryant
Trey Smith, WR, Har-Ber
Jack Stone, OL, Prairie Grove
Nate Turner, K, Russellville
Keshawn Whaley, LB, Pine Bluff
Nick Andrews, DL, Marked Tree
Corban Arnold, OL, Wynne
Jacob Clark, RB, Bentonville
Jake Madding, ATH, Danville
Carter Sipe, TE, Harding Academy
Darius Austin, RB, North LR
Tripp Bell, OL, Baptist Prep
Henley Bland, WR, LR Christian
Paul Chiolino, DL, Russellville
Makheem Cobbs, DE, Stuttgart
Nick Fletcher, LB, Conway
Josh Millikin, QB, Southside Batesville
Destin Miller, CB, El Dorado
Reeve Mullens, DT, Smackover
Joseph Patterson, QB, Cave City
Clayton Barganier, WR, Bentonville
Brayden Brazeal, QB, England
Ontario Conway, LB, Des Arc
Jaquan Dorsey, WR, Watson Chapel
Austin Guymon, LB, LR Christian
Tucker Hall, ATH, Foreman
Jonathan Harris, DB, Watson Chapel
Orlando Henley, DB, LR Catholic
Riley House, OL, West Helena
Hunter Jackson, OL, Ozark
Greg Junior, CB, Crossett
Hayden Lassiter, DB, Warren
Dameyun McDonald, DL, West Helena
Marquise Pleasant, WR, Conway
Jack Pillow, TE, Conway
Lake Tucker, DL, El Dorado
Luke Vaden, WR, Baptist Prep
Hunter White, LB, Nashville
Nathan Whitley, DB, Camden Harmony Grove
Michael Bornslater, CB, Crossett
Michael Caldwell, WR, Texarkana
Cade Chastain, OL, Har-Ber
Dennis Daniels, RB, Warren
Rayshaad Hall, CB, West Memphis
Demonte Jamison, DB, Prescott
Garon Martin, OL, Sylvan Hills
Anthony Spurling, TE, Mount Ida
Lance Smith, RB, White Hall
Austin Stubber, QB, Hope
Will Walton, TE, Spring Hill
Tre Williams, DB, Forrest City
Odies Wilson, DB, LR Parkview
Jackson Bray, OL, Rogers
Devonta Brown, OL, Warren
Caleb Canady, QB, Morrilton
Alex Day, RB, North LR
Hunter Grimes, OL, Prescott
Chris Hargraves, RB, Camden Fairview
Michael Jenkins, DL, Crossett
Austin Morse, WR, Cabot
Cody Nabors, LB, Cabot
Jaden Salley, OL, North LR
Easton Seidl, DL, Cabot
Malik Smith, LB, Blytheville
Mark Smith, DS, Camden Fairview
Dylan Snow, DE, Hamburg
Kolton Studdard, OL, White Hall
Freddy Ware, OL, Rivercrest
SAU signee DENNIS DANIELS