Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Arkansas Razorbacks recruiting notebook. In this edition, we discuss the possibility of an Arkansas vs. Missouri high school All-Star game.
Is an Arkansas-Missouri high school game in the works?
Arkansas and Missouri are looking for ways to stir up the Battle Line Rivalry in its infant stages. Mizzou’s 28-24 comeback victory last season helped. As did the mouth of former Tigers linebacker Eric Beisel before and after the upset win.
Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema has another idea to kick things up a notch and it starts at the high school level. Bielema stated Monday at SEC Media Days he’s had conversations about the two states potentially playing a high school all-star game.
Because I think the game is a great idea and could include some top recruits for both schools each year, I’m dedicating this notebook to the topic.
So, just for fun, let’s start with what the starting lineups might have looked like if the game were played after last season with 2017 seniors.
For Arkansas, let’s go with a 3-4 defense in order to get the best players on the field. The strengths of a team from the Natural State in 2017 would’ve been at wide receiver and defensive line. Both spots could’ve been filled with three players who signed with Power 5 schools. Arkansas also has a clear advantage at quarterback with Taylor Powell, who, interestingly enough, signed with Missouri.
- QB: Taylor Powell (Fayetteville)
- RB: Darrius Hopkins (Nashville); Demekko Clark (Blytheville)
- WR: Koilan Jackson (Joe T. Robinson); Jarrod Barnes (Cabot); Josh Johnson (Central Arkansas Christian)
- OL: Kirby Adcock (Nashville); Ty Clary (Fayetteville); Audry Horn (Little Rock Catholic); Hunter Moreton (Fort Smith Southside); Staten Wade (Arkansas)
- DL: Akial Byers (Fayetteville); David Porter (Joe T. Robinson); B.J. Thompson (England)
- LB: Hekili Keliiliki (Bentonville); Marvin Moody (Bryant); Hayden Henry (Pulaski Academy); Monta Thomas (Hampton)
- DB: Montaric Brown (Ashdown); Tre Norwood (Fort Smith Northside); Tajhnick Bishop (Ashdown); Mike Williams (Parkers Chapel)
The top 10 players from Missouri in the 2017 class came from just three different positions — defensive line, offensive line and wide receiver. So, obviously, this roster is loaded in those spots. The offensive line is particularly stout as Shane Clenin (Arkansas), Marquis Hayes (Oklahoma) and Larry Boyd (Illinois) all signed with Power 5 schools.
- QB: Aqeel Glass (Lutheran North)
- RB: Andrew Clair (St. Louis University)
- WR: Jaevon McQuitty (Battle); Da’Ron Davis (Lee’s Summit North); Reggie Crawford Jr. (Chaminade)
- TE: Travis Vokolek (Kickapoo)
- OL: Clenin (Jefferson); Hayes (Pattonville); Boyd (Trinity Catholic); Nick Follmer (Liberty); Matt Gauert (Lee’s Summit West)
- DL: Chester Graves (Park Hill); Anthony Payne (Raymore-Peculiar); Adam Winter (De Smet); Thomas Dutton (Hickman)
- LB: Ryan Newton (Parkway North); Reece Goddard (Kirkwood); Torre Boland (Trinity Catholic)
- DB: Antonio Phillips (Kirkwood); Dillon Thomas (Park Hill South); Tony Adams (St. Louis University); Peyton Jones (Archbishop O’Hara)
A first look for fans
It’s becoming common place for one of the top players from each of these states to sign with the flagship school in the other. An all-star game could give the fans a strong reason to go watch a preview of what is to come.
In 2017, Missouri fans could have seen how QB signee Powell stacks up against the best defensive players from the Show Me State. Arkansas fans could have had a chance to see incoming OL Clenin take on a loaded defensive line.
The previous year had the same potential. Arkansas fullback Hayden Johnson, from Columbia, Mo., started much of last season as a freshman. Little Rock native Damarea Crockett started at Missouri and rushed for 1,062 yards in 2016, a freshman school record. Those guys could’ve been on the same field for fans to see before arriving at college.
There could also be a lot of Division I talent in general every year for fans to see. Of the players listed above as possible starters from 2017, all 22 from Missouri signed to play at the FBS or FCS level. Arkansas had 18 of the 22 players listed falling in that category.
When would it be played?
To have a marquee high school all-star game in this day and age, it’s got to be in December. This is when the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game annually takes place (Dec. 10 in 2016), and that game is a perfect example of how to run such an event.
A December game wouldn’t be an issue for Missouri. The high school playoffs typically conclude in late November. It would be a little tricky for Arkansas, however, because the high school playoffs typically last a couple weeks longer (concluded Dec. 10 last year). But it’s still doable. Assuming a game had been in place last year, Dec. 17 would have been perfect — a Saturday a week after the end of competition for all potential participants.
So, why not wait until the new year? Well, wait until the spring, and some top players will already be on a college campus. Nearly all will already be signed, and maybe encouraged not to participate as a result. Wait until the summer and basically all the top options are enrolled in college and not available.
Let’s get back to the Alabama-Mississippi game as evidence to why December works. Here are just some of the top names who participated in the game last year and where they signed.
- Alabama team: Brian Robinson, RB, Alabama; Hunter Brannon, OL, Alabama; Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama; Daulton Hyatt, QB, Arkansas; K.J. Britt, LB, Auburn; Tadarian Moultry, LB, Auburn; Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn; Kadarius Toney, ATH, Fla.; Neil Ferrell, DT, LSU; Nico Collins, WR, Michigan; Ryan Johnson, DL, Stanford; Will Ignont, LB, Tennessee
- Mississippi team: Cam Akers, RB, Florida State; C.J. Avery, S, Louisville; Myles Brennan, QB, LSU; Kylin Hill, RB Mississippi State; Kam White, S, Ole Miss; Willie Gay, LB, Mississippi State; Jordan Murphy, WR, Tennessee
That’s an outstanding roster and it’s just the top tier. Many others who played in the game also signed with FBS schools. The Alabama-Mississippi game is one recruits in those states love to play in and grow up hoping for the opportunity. But you build that by making it accessible to the best. Take note, Arkansas and Missouri.
Where would it be played?
There are a number of good options regarding where an Arkansas-Missouri all-star game could be played. If you really wanted to stoke the Battle Line Rivalry, maybe go home-and-home every other year between Columbia and Fayetteville. Or, places like Arkansas State in Jonesboro or Missouri Southern in Joplin may be decent options not too far from the border.
To me, there’s a better option — a centralized location. That would be Missouri State in Springfield. It’s 213 miles from Little Rock and 215 miles from St. Louis. Additionally, Kansas City is 219 miles away and Fayetteville just 144. That’s perfect.
And Missouri State’s Plaster Stadium (17,500 capacity) isn’t too big nor too small for a high school all-star game. Plus, the school would probably be all for it as a potential recruiting boost.
Maybe there’s an Arkansas-Missouri game on the horizon and maybe there isn’t. All we know now is Bielema has at least discussed it with someone. That’s enough to get us thinking. And now, there’s a (very rough) outline of how it might work.
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