Football: NWA Media's Dandy Dozen
Posted: August 31, 2014 at 2:34 p.m.
There will be no shortage of college prospects on football fields across Northwest Arkansas this fall, from the smallest schools to the largest.
NWA Media’s annual Dandy Dozen features a host of college prospects and promising underclassmen this season, led by Arkansas committment C.J. O’Grady, a tight end from Fayetteville. O’Grady is far from the only one to watch.
Bentonville junior quarterback Kasey Ford was just 15 years old last December when he led the Tigers to the Class 7A state championship. Ford is a 4-start prospect by several recruiting services and his Tigers are again the favorites to win the state title in 7A.
Fayetteville and Bentonville have multiple players on the list. But the smaller classification schools are also represented as Prairie Grove junior Dylan Soehner (6-foot-6, 255 pounds) is certainly on the radar of college coaches as a tight end. Farmington’s bullish junior back Justice Hobbs is another name to file away.
The prep season officially kicks off Monday with a doubleheader at Reynolds Razorback Stadium starting at 5:30 p.m., as Lincoln takes on Hot Springs Lakeside, followed by Highland vs. Midland (Texas) Christian.
The Dandy Dozen
Some football teams have several players they turn to as the leaders on the field and in the lockerroom. Others rely on one figure who stands above the rest as the central voice of the group.
Carter fills the role this year for Fayetteville.
“He’s such a good football player, but he’s also such a good person,” Fayetteville coach Daryl Patton said. “That’s why a school like Army is so interested in him. He’s our leader.”
Carter enters his third season as a starter on the Bulldogs’ defense, and he still might be one of the most overlooked players in the 7A-West Conference. The senior defensive end has often been overshadowed by other top players at Fayetteville, but there might not be a more important player this season in determining the Purple’Dogs’ level of success.
Dobbins showed football fans during a scrimmage at Tulsa, Okla., on Thursday why he’s a Division 1 prospect. Dobbins had two quarterback sacks on one series and showed good lateral movement when he shunned a blocker and wrapped up a ball carrier for no gain. Tulsa, Arkansas State, and Eastern Illinois are among the Division I schools who’d love to have his signature in February.
“Rickey Dobbins can dominate a game,” Har-Ber coach Chris Wood said. “He’s a very strong and powerful young man.”
Dobbins should emerge this year after playing in the shadow of former Har-Ber lineman Josh Frazier, who calls Dobbins his little brother. Frazier will see the field this year as a freshman at Alabama and Dobbins could follow a similar path next year.
School: Springdale Har-Ber
Sequels often don’t have the same success as the originals enjoyed, but Ford has a chance to write his own script his season.
The Bentonville junior took over at quarterback and drew his first start against national power Euless (Texas) Trinity, then proceeded to lead the Tigers to the Class 7A state title and finished the season with 1,846 yards and 22 touchdowns. He saved his best for last, throwing for a season-high 265 yards and three touchdowns despite miserable conditions in a 39-28 win over Cabot at War Memorial Stadium.
So how does Ford build on that kind of performance? At least he will have more opportunities to do it.
“We have given a few more liberties with Kasey and some of the starters about making some fine adjustments when defenses take a few concepts away,” Bentonville quarterbacks coach Kevin York said. “So they will have the ability to make a few adjustments on the run. That has happened, and that’s a little more advanced.
“Sometimes, as a coach, you worry about having too many of those ‘if thens’ because too many could lead to bad mistakes. But we are growing in that direction a little bit.”
He has already caught the eye of colleges and received an offer from Louisville during the summer.
First there was a 91-yard punt return touchdown against Warren. Then came the 68-yard interception touchdown against Jefferson City. And who can forget the game-winning kickoff return touchdown to beat Rogers Heritage.
All big plays last season. All plays that earned Greenlaw the well-deserved nickname, ‘Big Play Dre” and now he’s ready to pile on some more.
“Dre’s experienced, he’s a two-year starter, he’s very physical and when you look at him he’s got that wow factor about him,” Fayetteville coach Daryl Patton said. “And he’s got a knack for the football. Last year, he had four or five interceptions, two or three touchdowns on defense and couple kickoff and punt return (touchdowns).
“So he’s earned that nickname, Big Play Dre.”
Greenlaw did plenty on special teams, but his real specialty is as the leader of the Fayetteville secondary at safety. And don’t be surprised he adds a twist or two on offense this season as well.
Hobbs was the All-NWA Media Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore, rushing for 908 yards and five touchdowns for a Farmington team that finished 6-4-1.
As the Cardinals prepare to make the move up in classification to the 5A-West Conference, look for Hobbs to carry an even heavier workload on his shoulders.
“He’s gotten a lot stronger and probably even faster,” Farmington coach Mike Adams said. “He ran track this spring and he’s been at speed development school, so his speed is much improved and we expect a lot out of Justice.
“He’s a guy we’re going to get the ball in his hands 25 to 30 times a game.”
Keliiliki proved his talents in Bentonville’s offensive backfield last year, enough that Stanford invited him to a camp during the summer and eventually gave him an offer.
The Tigers want to see more of him on the field, but this time as a defensive player. Keliiliki will split his time between tailback and outside linebacker this fall.
He provided a glimpse of what he could do on defense during the second half of Bentonville’s win over Fayetteville last year. His duty was to get into the Purple’Dog backfield and cause problems, and he responded with a three solo tackles, a quarterback sack and a tackle for loss.
“We decided to let him come after the quarterback,” Bentonville coach Barry Lunney said. “The thing that changed in the second half was we got pressure on the quarterback. Hekili ran over the one back who was supposed to block him and sacked the quarterback.
“He also made a play on a screen pass. His rushing and tackling on the line of scrimmage changed the complexion of that game.”
He will still see adequate time in the offensive backfield, where he split time with Dylan Smith and rushed for 771 yards and 11 touchdowns. That included two touchdowns in the Class 7A State Championship against Cabot.
O’Grady broke out in a big way last fall, in his first season playing tight end for Fayetteville.
Growing up as a quarterback, O’Grady and the Fayetteville coaches determined a move to tight end would work best prior to his junior year. And the move paid big dividends, as O’Grady tore through the 7A-West Conference, with 45 catches for 884 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Somewhat of a secret entering his junior year, O’Grady is perhaps the most targeted offensive weapon in the conference this season.
“Everybody knows what C.J. can do,” Fayetteville coach Daryl Patton said. “Defenses will have to double cover him. But they can’t double-cover everybody, and that should leave some good one-on-one opportunities with the cornerbacks on the outside.”
O’Grady knows this year figures to be much different than his junior season. All defenses in the conference are focused his way, but the talented tight end appears ready for the challenge.
“I know their going to double cover me a lot more this year,” O’Grady said. “But we have two guys, Jack Lindsey and Taylor Powell, who are doing a really good job at quarterback, and I know they’ll get the job done and find me the ball.”
Owens’ favorite sport is basketball.
But the Springdale High senior will also be one of the Bulldogs’ top players on the football field this fall.
Owens will again give Springdale a long, athletic presence at cornerback, where he started last season and finished with 29 tackles, four pass breakups and two interceptions. But he’ll also play a big role on offense this year when he lines up at receiver and gives the Bulldogs a deep threat with his size and speed.
Owens has multiple offers for both football and basketball, where he averaged a team-high 12.6 points on Springdale’s state runner-up team in the spring. Most of the schools recruiting him for football are interested in him as a cornerback, but he jumped at the chance to play offense this year.
“Playing corner, the first two games and Fayetteville are the only three games out of the whole season that somebody actually threw the ball at me,” Owens said of his junior season. “So it kind of got boring and I kind of got disengaged from the game. So I think with me playing both, I’ll be engaged to the game the whole time instead of just being relaxed and bored throughout the game. It’ll be more fun.”
School: Springdale High
Rogers Heritage football coach Perry Escalante said there’s no question Saucier is a difference-maker for his team. That’s why he wants to make sure the 6-foot, 194-pound senior gets the ball as much as possible this season.
That’s also a main reason why he decided to move Saucier from receiver to running back. He showed that big-play ability a year ago, scoring 13 touchdowns either rushing, receiving or returning kicks.
Saucier finished with 44 receptions for 793 yards, averaging more than 18 yards per catch to go with eight touchdowns. He also rushed for 284 yards on 56 carries with three TDs and averaged 33.5 yards per kickoff return with two touchdowns.
Noted as one of the top 100-meter sprinters in the state, Saucier has gotten attention from several colleges. He already has an offer from Air Force to play football and others are expected.
“Joey is at another level,” Escalante said. “He’s got that ability to run away from guys. But he doesn’t shy away from contact either. He will drop his shoulder and run over you, too.
He showed that big-play ability in a scrimmage earlier this week against Van Buren. Saucier touched the ball only three times in the two quarters, but two of those touches yielded a 71-yard touchdown run and the other a 57-yard TD run.
School: Rogers Heritage
Scroggins still has some tricks up his sleeve for his senior season.
Bentonville’s leading receiver caught a Tulsa (Okla.) Union defender off-guard Thursday night when Scroggins leaped over the potential tackler, and turned a short pass until a 26-yard gain and set up the Tigers’ second field goal during the Union Gridiron Classic.
It leaves Bentonville receivers coach Rod Washington wondering what else he might see from his top receiver this season
“I had never seen it before,” Washington said of Scroggins’ jump. “He’s always coming up with something different, but I guarantee you, that belongs on a highlight reel. It was incredible to me”
Scroggins will be asked to do more this season, and not just on offense. He will also see time in the Tigers’ secondary as one of the safeties — a position he played sparingly last season.
In the meantime, there’s still what he does on offense as a receiver, where he caught 45 passes for 803 yards and six touchdowns last season. Although he’s made an oral commitment to play baseball at Arkansas, Washington could see him extending his football career beyond high school.
“Recruiters need to take notice,” Washington said. “Somebody needs to get hold of his highlights and take notice. I think Cody could go to a place where they have a scheme and help somebody at the next level. He does things that you can’t coach.”
Smith is almost guaranteed of having a better start to his senior season.
The Bentonville tailback suffered a sprained ankle during a preseason scrimmage and was forced to miss the first two games last year. He was limited to just 15 yards on 13 carries in his first action against Euless (Texas) Trinity.
Smith made up for it, though, He opened conference play by carrying the ball 22 times for 174 yards and two touchdowns against Springdale Har-Ber, and he finished the seaon strong with 1,417 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“Dylan is solid in our run game,” Bentonville running backs coach David Pollard. “He’s got good hands and he’s really good with his pass blocking.”
There’s no doubt that Smith can shoulder the load if needed. He closed out the regular season with a 30-carry, 205-yard performance against Fayetteville, then he totalled 28, 22 and 22 carries in the Tigers’ playoff games for a combined 531 yards and three scores.
Soehner began turning heads on the basketball court as a sophomore when he helped lead Prairie Grove to a winning season and a state tournament appearance. But his size and athleticism excites college coaches and he’s already received offers from Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech.
More offers will follow, especially if his receptions increase in the passing game.
“Dylan is a big and strong and he has great hands,” Prairie Grove coach Danny Abshier said. “He’s only 16 years old and he already has two legitimate offers from D-I schools. We know he’s going to get better.”
Soehner played quarterback in junior high and he could take snaps at that position if needed this season. But the Tigers’ first priority will be to use him as a receiver and a blocker.
School: Prairie Grove