FAYETTEVILLE — Jacolby Criswell was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Arkansas in 2019 as he quarterbacked Morrilton to an outstanding season, but he was one who got away in Sam Pittman’s first class.
Criswell, 6-1, 205, had several offers coming out of Morrilton, but opted for North Carolina. Arkansas was going through a coaching change and the Tar Heels had done a very good job of making Criswell a priority. But the recruiting this time was much different as Pittman has solidified the program unlike when Criswell was in high school.
“I mean it felt right,” Criswell said of Saturday’s commitment. “Just go with your gut and that is what I did.”
Criswell talked about what his gut was saying to him this time.
“I wanted to come back,” Criswell said. “It’s my home state. It wasn’t that good a year and I felt like I could be a difference maker in upcoming years.”
At Arkansas, Criswell will play for Kendal Briles, who is the offensive coordinator and coaches the quarterbacks.
“Great guy,” Criswell said. “People’s person, down to earth. Cares for his players, quarterbacks especially. Great coach. I like the scheme and everything he does. Pretty similar to where I came from at North Carolina. So I’m just excited to get to work with him.”
On Monday in an interview with Hogville.net, Criswell said that he had questions to ask and if he got the right answers then Arkansas is where he would be in the future.
“I got the right answers and the right answers I feel they were honest answers,” Criswell said.
Criswell entered the transfer portal on Monday. Wisconsin and others came after him, but he felt like Arkansas was best for him.
“I’m a big believer in Christ,” Criswell said. “If things don’t work out the way you planned. At that time North Carolina felt right. But at the end of the day God wrote the story and I feel like I’m supposed to be back here.”
While Pittman was hired late and didn’t have much time to pursue Criswell at that time he did make a hard push for the Morrilton standout. The previous coach at Arkansas had made his son a priority over Criswell and others, but the fact Pittman let him know he was a priority at that time stuck with the quarterback.
“I did for sure,” Criswell said. “It was bad timing for him. My coach at North Carolina ended up coming down. Bad timing for him (Pittman). We didn’t get to talk much. But I was really excited. I figured he would go for a late push. The type of person I am, I’m loyal so I told him I just couldn’t do it.”
Loyalty isn’t something exactly common in athletics any longer. Criswell talked about what loyalty means to him.
“I mean when it comes to life loyalty is everything to me,” Criswell said. “I keep people around who are loyal to me and I’m loyal to them. You don’t see it in today’s era. I feel like I have a little old school to me. I do everything the right way. What I’m supposed to do. Things along that area. Loyalty is just huge.
“Football wise, it’s great to have a football coach like Sam Pittman, Coach Briles, that are loyal to you as well. Want you to come back and represent the state. Not too many coaches would do that and accept that after they got a late push. But I was respectful about it. He knew that no matter what things were going to come around and I was going to end being a Razorback eventually.”
At North Carolina, Criswell completed 18 of 31 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He also rushed 20 times for 133 yards and a touchdown. At Morrilton, he completed 408 of 650 passes for 5,964 yards, 58 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Criswell also rushed 370 times for 2,593 yards and 41 touchdowns. He had eight receptions for 94 yards.
Criswell joins Florida offensive guard Joshua Braun and Texas A&M-Commerce wide receiver Andrew Armstrong, 6-5, 189, as committed to the Hogs from the transfer portal. Braun, 6-6, 335, visited Arkansas last weekend. The Razorbacks will now have three scholarship quarterbacks. Criswell, KJ Jefferson and Malachi Singleton.