Central Arkansas Not “Running” Short On ‘Backs

Recruiting in Arkansas high school football for 2022 is as abundant as we have seen in over a decade. Dating back to the 2008 class which included All-American punt returner Joe Adams plus the Warren trio of Chris Gragg, Jarius Wright, and Greg Childs-all of whom spent time of NFL rosters-this class on paper appears they could match or surpass the talent from 14 years prior.

So far, twelve of the top 20 prospects in the state boast an offer from the Razorbacks and eight of those are currently committed to Sam Pittman and Co.

Arkansas recently signed its first two prospects from the Little Rock School District since 2005 in quarterback Landon Rogers and tight end Erin Outley, both out of Little Rock Parkview.

The heart of the state is loaded with talent, particularly at running back, which will be the focal point of this conversation. All rankings mentioned are based on the 247 Sports composites.

James Jointer Jr. (6’0, 205) LR Parkview

James Jointer

Jointer, who has over 30 Division 1 offers, committed to Arkansas in March and is the top-ranked back in the state, 7th prospect overall. A teammate of the aforementioned Rogers and Outley, Jointer averaged a stellar 6.8 yards per carry running for 1,105 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jointer suffered a torn ACL during his sophomore season, but is now back to his initial 4.4 speed. Speedy junior Willie Eackles will compliment Jointer and is also a threat catching the ball, also in the return game.

Some of Jointer’s other offers include Florida State, Missouri, Michigan State, and Tennessee. Head coach Brad Bolding is confident in his star player heading into a new year: “Our entire offensive line is back,” Bolding stated. “I feel confident James will have a great year. He no longer has the knee brace and is 100%.”

Joe Himon

Joe Himon (5’10, 175) Pulaski Academy

Depending on who you ask, Himon could very well be the best all-purpose player in The Natural State. Himon (4.4 speed) was a force both on the ground and through the air last season averaging 11.1 yards per touch combining for 2,993 yards (1,925 rushing), 32 TDs, and a collection of highlight plays.

Himon, the 8th-ranked prospect in Arkansas, committed to Northwestern on July 11th and also has offers from Lousiville, Missouri, and Vanderbilt, among others. His main focus is to lead the Bruins to their seventh state championship in eight years, but knows he made the right choice in choosing the Wildcats: “Northwestern is a top-10 school academically, so I know I will get a great education,” Himon said. “Coach Fitz is a super cool down to earth guy. He wants to push me on and off the field to be the best I can be. Overall it is just a great environment.”

Casey “CJ” Johnson III (5’11, 195) Benton

CJ Johnson

CJ is expected to burst onto the scene this season, the only player on this list to not get a chance to play in the postseason-Benton was one of the multiple teams that had to opt out of the playoffs due to COVID protocols. In just 10 games, Johnson rushed for 1,174 yards and 15 touchdowns also adding 3 receiving touchdowns.

He has been offered from a few Division II colleges and has also been in talks with Abilene Christian, Akron, Colorado, Kansas State, Southern Illinois, and others. Johnson mentioned that he simply “just wants to be the best” that he can be. “Your talent determines what you can do,” he said. “Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.”

Jayvean Dyer-Jones (5’9, 200) Little Rock Christian

Jayvean Dyer-Jones

Little Rock Christian advanced to its third-consecutive state championship game in December and Dyer-Jones was a huge part of that. He had 195 carries in 2020 eclipsing 1,402 yards (7.2 YPC) and 13 touchdowns. “We will need Jayvean to be a leader,” head coach Eric Cohu said. “He is one of the best backs in the state.” Dyer-Jones does not currently hold any offers but has been talking to a few FCS schools.

The Warriors have a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield with fellow senior Brian Gittens (9 YPC in ’20) that will help take pressure off of sophomore quarterback Walker White. “Brian is one of the quickest guys on our team,” Cohu stated. “Our hope is that with he and Jayvean, we can be a prolific offense.”

Daryl Searcy (6’1, 215) Joe T. Robinson

Daryl Searcy PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Oliver/Youth1.com

The injury bug plagued Searcy last season while sharing the backfield with Louisiana-Monroe signee Hunter Smith, finishing with 365 yards and scoring 5 touchdowns on minimal carries. Robinson won it all in 2019 and Searcy is bound and determined to lead to Senators back to War Memorial, along with having a big season individually.

“Me being the leader of this team I have to step up and push my teammates to be the best we can be,” he mentioned. “My expectations for this season is to win conference and finish with a state title. I have been working all year for this last moment in high school, I have got to make it my best.” Searcy currently has offers from Arkansas State, Memphis, and North Texas but has not been talking to coaches at the moment.

Tyler Williams (6’0, 195) Central Arkansas Christian

Tyler Williams

One of the more underrated utility players in the state, Williams will move to quarterback for his senior season with the Mustangs, but is expected to return to the backfield for his college career. He was tabbed an all-state running back rushing for just shy of 1,400 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Williams showed glimpses of what he can do with his arm last season with touchdown passes of 61 and 75 yards, respectively. The coaching staff fully expects him to build on that: “Tyler had a great spring transitioning to QB and has continued that this summer,” head coach Tommy Shoemaker told me. “We’ve tweaked our offense to take advantage of his talents. He’s a guy you want with the ball in his hands.” Williams currently holds offers from Western Kentucky, Jewell College, and Arkansas Baptist.

Mason Bell (5’9, 175) Cabot

The expectations for Cabot are high coming off of a close loss in the semifinals at North Little Rock last December. With three offensive lineman and do-it-all skill player Braden Jay returning, you can expect Bell to improve on his numbers from 2020 when he averaged 10.8 YPC.

Darien Bennett (6’0, 220) Jacksonville

One of two 2023 prospects featured on this list, Bennett was offered a scholarship from Arkansas in May of 2020 about five months after the Sam Pittman tenure began. He paced the Titans with 910 yards on 168 carries and 9 touchdowns during his sophomore campaign.

Devon Duhart

To finish off, I want to give an honorable mention to Little Rock Central’s Devon Duhurt, who was taken from us too soon on July 23rd. Duhart was primed to play a big role in his senior season for the Tigers. Known as a bulky physical runner, Duhart had expectations of playing at the next level and no question had the desire. Our hearts continue go out to his family and friends.

Published by Kyle Sutherland, k_sutherlandHTP on Twitter