By Otis Kirk
Arkansas had 11 newcomers enroll at midterm including three defensive ends. Steve Caldwell is the fortunate recipient of that trio.
He talked about all three as the beginning of spring football pratice on Friday is nearing.
“We haven’t had a lot of opportunities to be around them,” Caldwell said. “Watched them run a little bit in the morning. Obviously they’re good athletes that’s the reason we signed them. They all three run well. They’re getting bigger and stronger. When I say bigger, Eric is already a big man. Zach and Soli are starting to put some weight back on and I have been impresse with them. The way they work is very impressive.”
One thing that former defensive line coach John Scott talked about in 2017 was the need for Arkansas to get longer and more length at defensive end. It seems you have done that with this class.
“Yes that’s exactly what we’re after is that length,” Caldwell said. “Length and speed. You go back to when I was here before even when you’re talking about Tenarius Wright and Jake Bequette and those guys that could fly off that edge. They don’t have to be that big if they can run they fit in with what we do well.
“When you get a guy like I go to Eric Gregory just watching him run out here a couple of mornings somebody with his size and the way he moves gives you a real good opportunity. Then we got really good length with Zach Williams and Mataio Soli.”
Williams and Soli had dads who had great careers at Arkansas. How much stock do you put in bloodlines like from Rickey Williams and Junior Soli?
“I think it means a lot to this university and those kids,” Caldwell said. “Anytime to me you have a kid like those two kids that their dad was a really good football player, not just played here, but were really good football players they have that in their bloodline. They know they want to follow them and reach all those expectations we have for them. I think it’s a really big deal.
“I think it’s a big deal when we’re able to sign in-state kids. I think it just means a little bit more to them. Anytime you look back in the past at the University of Arkansas normally about three or four years back there was a real good recruiting class instate that came through. When you go to the years when we were here before you had the three kids from Warren and all the rest of those kids instate made a big impact.”
Soli was a defensive lineman and lettered at Arkansas from 1992-95. Williams was a linebacker and lettered from 1984-87. Both were selected to the Arkansas All-Century team.
The stats from the trio suggest they will all be successful at Arkansas. As a senior, Williams had 97 tackles, 56 solo, 31 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, five caused fumbles and recovered three. Soli finished with 84 tackles, 60 solo, 29 tackles for loss, 22.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Gregory had 17 tackles, 10 solo, 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.