Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Arkansas Razorbacks recruiting notebook. This time, we discuss the latest on three 2017 defensive line prospects with National Signing Day rapidly approaching.
Interest growing between Arkansas and Johnson
Riverside (Calif.) Community College defensive tackle Melvin Johnson says he’s likely a couple weeks away from being ready to announce his commitment. When that time comes, there’s a growing chance his choice is Arkansas.
Johnson (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) has remained in regular contact with the Razorbacks’ staff since his official visit in early December. He was blown away by his experience on that trip, elevating his interest in the Hogs. The interest has been mutual with recruiting coordinator E.K. Franks having made two trips to visit Johnson.
“That means a lot to me,” Johnson told SEC Country of the visits from Franks. “I think it shows Arkansas is investing in me a lot. No other colleges are really doing that, so it means a lot.
“Once I got down there on my visit, it was just amazing. As soon as I got off the plane with my family, it was an amazing feeling. We could tell that Arkansas is all about tradition and all for the kids. We had a good time down there.”
Kentucky is the other current front runner for Johnson, who also has offers from Iowa State and Toledo. The Las Vegas native signed with UNLV in 2015 before being ruled academically ineligible.
Johnson already has a close connection within Arkansas’ program. He spent his first season at Riverside as a teammate of sophomore defensive end Michael Taylor II, who joined the Razorbacks last August.
“(Taylor) was kind of like my mentor,” Johnson said. “He taught me how to get around at practice. We have a strong relationship. I feel like we could do some damage if we get a chance to play together.”
Johnson’s relationship with Taylor is far from the only reason he’d fit well with the Razorbacks. He became very comfortable playing in the 3-4 defense last season. Arkansas is in the process of implementing that scheme heading into the 2017 season.
“Playing at (Riverside), we moved to a 3-4 at the beginning of the (2016) season,” Johnson said. “I was playing that 5-technique. I’m really comfortable in that scheme and I can play well in that scheme. With the big down linemen, it’s all about who has the bigger heart.”
He also brings a skill set geared toward stopping the run. The Hogs struggled mightily to do that last season, allowing a FBS-worst 6.2 yards per carry.
“I’m more of a run defender,” Johnson said. “I’d like to be better as a pass rusher, but I still think it’s all about stopping the run. I love the run game; I love run defense. I feel like once you stop the run, you can control the game. That’s my biggest strength.”
Johnson is currently focusing primarily on completing winter intersession classes at Riverside. Once those courses are finished in early February, he plans to settle on his college decision.
Richardson set to announce on NSD
Reports circulated Thursday afternoon that junior college defensive end prospect Gabe Richardson had committed to Arkansas. Those were soon retracted. Danny West of HawgSports later reported Richardson will announce his decision on National Signing Day next Wednesday.
Richardson (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) has a pass rusher’s skill set and would play outside linebacker in the Razorbacks’ 3-4 scheme. He officially visited Arkansas last weekend. It’s very possible he has silently committed to the Hogs but doesn’t want his decision public yet.
Richardson was recruited by Duke, Iowa State and others out of Southwest DeKalb High School (Decatur, Ga.) as a 2-star athlete in 2015 before ending up at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. At Hutchinson last season, he had 60 tackles and 6 sacks. He also had 18.5 tackles for loss.
4-star Bryant does not make trip to Arkansas
Arkansas did not receive a previously reported mid-week visit from 4-star target Markaviest Bryant.
The defensive end prospect from Crisp County (Ga.) High School deciding against the trip comes as no surprise. The Razorbacks were never believed to be in serious contention.
Auburn, Georgia and LSU appear to be the finalists to land Bryant on National Signing Day.
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All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.