HOOVER, Ala. — On Monday, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema mentioned a potential Missouri-Arkansas preps all-star football game as a way to “flame the fans” of the Battle Line Rivalry.
On Wednesday, Missouri coach Barry Odom and his players in attendance at SEC Media Days agreed.
“We’ve got an opportunity to try and develop that and continue to develop what’s happened since the rivalry’s been set,” Odom said. “I think competitively, you look on the field, and geographically, the location of each school makes it natural.”
There’s a clear intersection for both teams on the recruiting trail, and that overlap already manifests itself on the current roster. Damarea Crockett, Missouri’s starting running back, was a 4-star recruit out of Little Rock who never picked up an offer from the Razorbacks. Instead, he signed with Missouri and ran for more than 1,000 yards as a true freshman in 2016. Crockett is one of four Arkansas natives on Missouri’s 2017 roster.
Arkansas has six Missouri natives on its roster, and three of those players (Brian Wallace, Armon Watts and Hayden Johnson) had a scholarship offer from the Tigers when they were in high school. Recently, Arkansas has gone directly into Missouri’s backyard to pull some of the state’s top talent — former fullback Kody Walker was from Jefferson City, Mo., about 30 minutes south of Columbia. Current fullback Hayden Johnson is from Columbia.
That recruiting overlap would affect the timing of the game, says Odom.
“If we could get into a position where there’s an all-star game between both states, that’d be awesome,” Odom said. “… You’d have to do it early on, in my opinion, January or February. Probably more January just because you’ve got a couple guys from Arkansas commit to Mizzou and vice versa, it’s a little bit of a different dynamic, how that would all play out.”
The state of Missouri has one existing all-star game with the state of Kansas, but those rosters are normally centered on players in the Kansas City metro area. As a Lee’s Summit, Mo., native, quarterback Drew Lock is familiar with the stakes of that game although he didn’t participate.
“State pride, for sure,” Lock said. “I thought it was cool to see guys I’d play with be able to play in that game.”
Missouri LB Eric Beisel has taken it upon his shoulders to personally stoke the Missouri-Arkansas rivalry with his bombastic statements, and his thoughts on a potential Missouri-Arkansas all-star game were no different.
“It just seems like we get all the top Arkansas recruits here,” Beisel said. “So, I don’t know how productive that would be, so if (they) want to play powerhouses like Kirkwood, Webster Groves, Parkway Central, guys out of those — you know, Ezekiel Elliott, guys like that.
“Let’s make it happen.”
That’s the unanimous response so far. Two states with a shared border, two programs with a growing rivalry make for fertile soil for an event like this. Bielema’s on board. So, too, is Odom. A year from now, could we see an all-star game that alternates between Missouri’s Faurot Field and Arkansas’ Razorback Stadium?
“Everything that we can do to draw attention to that game, we’ll do our part,” Odom said.