By Otis Kirk
FAYETTEVILLE — Deke Adams is the third defensive line coach for Sam Pittman in as many seasons, but he brings vast experience to the job including some SEC stops.
Adams and the Razorbacks currently have four defensive line commitments in the Class of 2023. They have North Little Rock’s Quincy Rhodes, 6-7, 253; Mansfield (Texas) High School’s Kaleb James, 6-5, 265; Fayetteville (Ga.) High School’s Stephen Johnson, 6-4, 320; and Mableton (Ga.) Whitefield Academy’s Ian Geffrard, 6-6, 350. Johnson and Geffrard are interior defensive linemen, Rhodes is considered more of an edge rusher and James is capable of playing all four spots on the line.
All across the country schools are searching for defensive tackles. Adams talked about why it’s hard to sign as many defensive tackles as one would like.
“There are two positions that everybody in the country recruits heavily every year, and that’s corners and defensive linemen,” Adams said. “So you’re going to be recruiting against the top programs in the country every year. Our deal is we just want to get them on campus. I think if we can get them on campus, we can sell them what we have. We have a great university, great pride about our university, a phenomenal head coach that preaches and believe in the family atmosphere. I think the kids, and a lot of kids want that more than just, hey, give me the Xs and Os. They want, hey, what can you do for me after football and during the process.”
Arkansas has gone to the transfer portal in each of the past two classes to land three defensive linemen. New this year are Jordan Domineck from Georgia Tech, Terry Hampton from Arkansas State and Landon Jackson from LSU. Is three like a magic number for recruiting defensive linemen out of the portal?
“First of all, this portal thing makes everything different,” Adams said. “But you always want to set a base, and you want to set a base with good high school kids. You want to have a good base of things. There’s going to be times where you’re going to bring kids in to kind of fill a need or fill a hole. You don’t want to make a living in that, but it’s definitely an option. But, we want to do a great job of building a base with high school kids, and so we can have kids for the longevity of their time and not having kids jumping in and out, being here one year, leaving and this and that. But that’s part of the football world, right now, and we’re just fitting in where everybody else is fitting in.”
Adams and the Arkansas assistants got to go out in the spring for the evaluation period for the first time since COVID-19. Adams talked about where he was at and what he likes about instate recruiting. Adams was at Ouachita Baptist from 2002-05.
“Well, I’m down in the El Dorado area,” Adams said. “Down in Fordyce. Down in that area, and it’s good because a lot of the coaches that were in the state when I was here before are still here, and it’s great seeing a lot of them because I haven’t seen them in a long time. And, man, there’s a lot of great players in this state, and obviously we want to dominate our state and then get out and try to find other players in other areas that’s going to help us be successful and reach our goals. But recruiting in this state is something special because, like I said, the high school coaches are so dedicated and passionate about their kids and this university. And so, it’s great to be a part of it and great to see some of those guys.”
While Adams has an assigned territory he is also active recruiting defensive linemen regardless of where they are at.
“Yes, that’s really what it is,” Adams said of spot recruiting. “We all have a certain area in Arkansas. We have out-of-state areas, as well, but what I’ve learned a long time ago, you’ve got to take care of your room, make sure your room is right and then, hey, we’ll get other areas. And we do a great job as a staff bouncing off each other in certain areas and all that.”
Arkansas opens the season on Saturday, Sept. 3, when they host Cincinnati in Razorback Stadium at 2:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.