Signing Day: GAC champ Henderson St., in-state schools fill roster with home-grown talent

Signing Day: GAC champ Henderson St., in-state schools fill roster with home-grown talent

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While most of the recruiting world focuses on players signing with Division I schools, some of the more productive players in Arkansas over the past three years signed scholarships with smaller in-state schools.

Two Arkansas teams who annually battle in the Battle of the Ravine reaped the most in-state players.

Henderson State won the inaugural Great American Conference title last fall, and the championship impacted recruiting. While the Reddies signed some of the top players in the state, offensive lineman John McGee (6-4, 270) is the centerpiece for the class.

McGee, from Texarkana, Texas, signed with Oklahoma last February and was battling for a starting spot before leaving the team in mid-August. McGee attended Texarkana College last season, met with Oklahoma coaches in mid-December, then decided to enroll at Henderson State to remain close to family. McGee played in the U.S. Army All-American game last year and had offers from Alabama, Michigan and Notre Dame.

Reddies commit Gary Vines

The North Little Rock duo of safety Gary Vines (6-0, 185) and slotback Rodney Bryson (5-10, 170) also signed with Henderson State. Vines, a finalist for the Farm Bureau Awards Class 7A/6A Defensive Player of the Year, registered 107 tackles and five interceptions last season, while Bryson (4.3 speed) ran for more than 500 yards.

The Reddies also signed Little Rock McClellan's Akee Johnson (5-9, 170), one of the more versatile players in the state. Johnson played only five games last fall after hurting his knee in August, but he scored 13 touchdowns on offense, three on special teams and returned an interception for a score. Johnson reported offers from Memphis and the University of Central Arkansas. Little Rock Central receiver/safety A.J. Tucker (6-3, 190) chose Henderson State after being courted by Arkansas the past two weeks. Tucker played only on defense for five games this year after breaking his hand, racking up 31 tackles. After his hand healed, Tucker caught 28 passes for 516 yards and two TDs in just six games.

Reddies commit Derrick Muldrow

Mineral Springs defensive tackle Derrick Muldrow (6-2, 315) signed with Henderson State after visiting with coaches from the University of Arkansas the past few weeks. Muldrow, a finalist for Farm Bureau Awards Class 2A Defensive Player of the Year, was the 7-2A conference lineman of the year. Muldrow's high school teammate, safety E.J. Stewart (6-4, 200), signed with the Reddies.

A pair of 7A West stars, Springdale Har-Ber linebacker Peyton Squires (6-0, 208) and Rogers Heritage receiver Forrest Johnson (5-10, 170), inked with Henderson State. Squires tallied 103 tackles, five sacks and forced three fumbles a year ago, while Forrest caught 71 passes for 1,402 yards and 19 scores. Glen Rose offensive tackle Skyler Hix (6-2, 285), the 5-3A lineman of the year, signed with Henderson State after helping the Beavers to 2012 Class 3A state title game.

Tigers commit Austin Warford

Across Highway 7, Ouachita Baptist signed more than a dozen players from Arkansas, including North Little Rock defensive tackle Gerald Watson (6-1, 300). Watson (600-pound squat) racked up 96 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2012. Other notable OBU signees include White Hall safety Joseph Stewart (6-0, 175), Stuttgart linebacker Waymon Johnson, Nashville receiver Lavonte Thomas (6-3, 190) and Malvern quarterback Austin Warford (5-10, 200). Stewart, a finalist for Farm Bureau Awards Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year, made 40 tackles and intercepted 10 passes in eight games last fall. He generated more than 700 yards and 11 TDs on offense. Johnson won the Farm Bureau Awards 4A Defensive Player of the Year after racking up 82 tackles (12 TFL) and two interceptions last fall for state champion Stuttgart. Thomas helped Nashville reach the quarterfinals the past three seasons, pacing the Scrappers this fall with 51 catches for 1,015 yards and 17 TDs. Warford accounted for more than 7,300 total yards and 88 TDs in his career.

Arkansas Tech first-year coach Raymond Monica inked an impressive crop of in-state players, including Alma QB Gage Jensen (6-2, 181), Benton running back Wallace Foote (5-8, 175), Bryant offensive tackle Ian Shuttleworth (6-2, 280), Conway offensive tackle Bryton Booher (6-8, 295) and the Nashville duo of linebacker Jacolby Crow (6-0, 235) and receiver Donyell King (5-7, 146). Foote ran 214 times for 1,788 yards and 23 TDs last year. Crow racked up 93 tackles and five sacks, while King hauled in 51 passes for 920 yards and 11 TDs.

The University of Arkansas-Monticello and Harding University each signed six players from Arkansas. Fordyce fullback/linebacker Austin Nutt (6-2, 215) and Hot Springs Lakeside receiver Teveon Perkins (5-10, 165) headline UAM's signing class. Nutt generated 248 yards offense and collected 40 tackles last fall. Harding's class includes Lake Hamilton defensive tackle Gavin De Los Santos (6-3, 290), Greenbrier lineman Zach Gerbholtz (6-2, 250), Jonesboro linebacker Katon Hill (5-10, 220), Greene County Tech RB Brian Griffith (5-11, 190) and McCrory RB Logan Best (5-10, 175).

Muleriders commit Aaron Wynn

Southern Arkansas focused on recruiting players from successful South Arkansas programs. The Muleriders signed El Dorado running back Marque Burris (5-8, 180) and three players from Camden Fairview: twin offensive linemen Dillan Bever (6-3, 290) and Zach Bever (6-3, 295) and linebacker Aaron Wynn (5-11, 217). Burris ran for more than 800 yards this year despite getting hurt in the middle of the season. Burris sprinted for 2,174 yards and 28 TDs a year ago, and helped the Wildcats claim state titles in 2010 and 2011. Wynn, a finalist for Farm Bureau Awards Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year, amassed an amazing 474 tackles in his career, leading the Cardinals to the 2012 state title.

In seven months, the Hendrix Warriors play their first game in more than 50 years. Coach Justin "Buck" Buchanan signed a handful of in-state prospects for the non-athletic scholarship Division III program. Greenbrier QB Seth Peters, a finalist for Farm Bureau Awards Class 5A Offensive Player of the Year, highlights Hendrix's first signing class. Peters completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,987 yards and 29 TDs this year, and ran for 975 yards and 22 scores. He played receiver as a sophomore and junior, catching 166 passes for 1,907 yards and 20 TDs in his career.

Not every talented player from Arkansas remains in the Natural State, though. Ivy League members Columbia and Harvard dipped into the state. Columbia signed Fort Smith Southside tight end John Hunton (6-4, 230), while Harvard signed Parkers Chapel receiver Philip Hay (5-11, 175). Hunton won the Air Guard Scholar Athlete of the Year Award, while Hay shunned Arkansas State to play at Harvard. Division I-AA Missouri State signed Camden Fairview defensive tackle Mckenzie James (6-3, 230), Marked Tree running back Darius Ivy (6-0, 175) and the Wynne duo of defensive end Tony Jones (6-5, 205) and safety Joe Stampley (6-3, 180).



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