Cornerback gets jump on his foes
Posted: August 1, 2014 at 2:48 a.m.
The 17th in a series profiling newcomers on the 2014 Arkansas Razorbacks football team.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Before Victor Craig became a power forward for the Arizona basketball team, he played football at St. Augustine High School in suburban New Orleans.
At 6-8, Craig made for a big target in the passing game.
Henre Toliver glance
WEIGHT 180 pounds
HIGH SCHOOL Metairie (La.) Archbishop Rummel
HOMETOWN Marrero, La.
NOTEWORTHY Had 10 career interceptions at Rummel and was a two-year starter. … Ranked the No. 18 prospect from Louisiana and the No. 27 cornerback in the country by 247Sports.com. Rivals.com ranked him the No. 20 recruit from Louisiana and nation’s No. 42 cornerback. … Other scholarship offers included Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, Louisville, Arizona State, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. … Grew up with Arkansas freshman linebacker Dwayne Eugene, who was his teammate at Rummel. … Committed to Arkansas the summer before his senior season.
"Any time St. Aug got in the red zone, they put Craig out there and threw a jump ball to him," said Eddie Jacquillard, defensive coordinator for Metairie (La.) Archbishop Rummel. "They figured nobody could go up with him."
St. Augustine didn't figure on Henre Toliver, now a freshman cornerback for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Toliver, 6-1, was covering Craig in a 2012 game when he intercepted a pass and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown to cap the Raiders' 42-18 victory.
"Henre said, 'OK, I'm going to jump up with you, big guy,' " Jacqiullard said. "It's one of the best plays I've ever seen a cornerback make."
So how did Toliver take the ball away from a receiver 7 inches taller?
"I knew they were going to him on a fade route because we'd gone over it in practice," said Toliver, who also played guard on Rummel's basketball team. "I don't know if he misjudged the ball or I just got it at its highest point or what. I just know we both went up for the ball, and I got the best of it and ran it back for a TD.
"It was a real big play -- the most memorable one I've ever made -- because every year there's a lot of hype between us and St. Aug."
Arkansas freshman linebacker Dwayne Eugene, who was Toliver's teammate at Rummel, blocked for him on the touchdown return.
"Man, it was crazy the way he took the ball away from the 6-8 guy," Eugene said. "He's got some freakish talent as far as his jumping ability and speed to make big plays."
Toliver had 10 career interceptions at Rummel. As a senior, his interception against No. 1 St. Augustine clinched a 31-28 victory in the state playoff semifinals. The previous week, his interception against Scotlandville allowed Rummel to hold on for a 17-14 victory.
"Henre covered the best receivers coming out of the state of Louisiana every year," Rummel Coach Jay Roth said. "In the playoffs, he was the guy we always put on the other team's best.
"With his long arms and the way he breaks on the ball, he's a ballhawk kind of guy."
Toliver's play-making ability earned him plenty of attention from major college teams. His scholarship offers included Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, Louisville, Arizona State, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, but he honored a commitment he made to Arkansas the summer before his senior season.
"There was a lot of interest in Henre because he's got a good build for a cornerback and great, great ball skills," Jacquillard said. "Anything thrown around him, there's a good chance he can come down with it."
Toliver didn't waver from signing with Arkansas, even after the Razorbacks went 3-9, including 0-8 in the SEC, last season and had a change at defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach with Robb Smith and Clay Jennings replacing Chris Ash and Taver Johnson.
"I never thought about changing my commitment," Toliver said. "Arkansas felt like the right fit when I visited, and after what happened last season I just figured that showed they need some help and I'm here to help as much as I can."
Toliver, 17, may be a good redshirt candidate given his age. He won't turn 18 until Oct. 21.
"I know I'm young for a college freshman , but age doesn't really make any difference to me," Toliver said. "The coaches have told me I'm going to have the chance to compete for playing time, and we'll see what happens from there.
"If I show I can play, then I want to play."
Toliver has been on the Arkansas campus since late May working out with his new teammates and strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert.
"I thought it was going to be hard fitting in, but it's been easy," Toliver said. "Smooth, smooth sailing. I've been able to bond with everybody."
Toliver said it's been a challenge working with Herbert.
"The way that he looks at you, you can tell he's really serious about his job," Toliver said. "He's in our head every day so we can build mental toughness. It's been a constant grind the way he works us, but I can tell I'm stronger and faster."
Sports on 08/01/2014