In his weekly column, Dudley E. Dawson catches up with Pulaski Academy wideout Neal Barlow (6-7, 200, 4.55), who is now healthy after battling a back injury and getting lots of recruiting attention.
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LITTLE ROCK - In the past couple of weeks, both LSU and Kansas have jumped into the race for Pulaski Academy wide receiver Neal Barlow.
North Carolina – the school where is dad once roomed with Michael Jordan - will likely soon be putting an offer on the table for Barlow (6-7, 200, 4.5), who also has offers from Tulsa and Missouri.
But – as of right now – all those schools are still chasing the University of Arkansas according to the talented wideout himself.
“They (the Razorbacks) will always be at the top because I am from Arkansas and I like their offense a lot,” Barlow said. “They are still my favorite.”
Barlow, who suffered a back injury that limited both his football and basketball activities this spring, showed he was fully healthy at this past weekend’s Shootout of the South.
Barlow’s combination of height, speed and catching ability – which allowed him to catch 81 passes for 1,164 yards and 11 touchdowns last season - were clearly on display during the competition.
“He is moving around well and he has done a couple of things to help himself out,” Pulaski Academy head coach Kevin Kelly said. “He is back to lifting weights hard, playing hard and I think he is showing that he is one of the better receivers in the state.”
Barlow’s back injury kept him out of several Arkansas Wings’ AAU basketball games, but he made it back just in time for the Bruins’ spring practice.
“I did physical therapy three times a week for about a month and a half and got my back stronger,” Barlow said. “I got released the Friday before practice started on a Monday.
“It went real good and I was real happy with how we looked,” Barlow said. “Our defense is looking a lot better than it did last year and our offense is clicking pretty well."
Kelly said that Barlow, who had 15 catches for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 57-50 loss to eventual state champion Greenwood in the Class 5A quarterfinals, has been getting a lot more attention lately.
“I get a lot of calls and right now they are not allowed to call him so they are calling me,” Kelly said. “We then figure out a way to get them in contact with each other.
“The more that his video gets out and the more that people meet him in person, it’s just getting him more attention,” Kelly said. “He is being accomodating and going to camps for people who are really interested in him.”
He recently took an unofficial visit to Kansas before a team camp in Tulsa.
“It went real good,” Barlow said of the trip to Kansas. “I went up there and toured the facilities, met all the coaches and was very impressed. I got an offer right after I left.”
While he expected the Jayhawks’ offer, the LSU one blindsided him a bit.
“I really didn’t expect that one was coming,” Barlow said. “I had been getting a bunch of letters from them and then they came down during spring practice, but I didn’t think they would really offer. I was shocked by it.”
Odds are he will have one from North Carolina, where his dad Jeb was a teammate of Jordan’s, before the summer is over.
“The (North) Carolina coach said that if I came down to Chapel Hill to visit, I would get an offer,” Barlow said. “I am going to try and make it down there sometime soon and try to get to LSU before the end of the summer.”
He’ll also most likely be in Fayetteville for the Razorbacks’ Senior Camp on July 19.
It won’t be too long afterwards that a decision will likely to be announced.
“I still want to make my decision before the start of the school year so I won’t have to worry about that during the season,” Barlow said. “That’s my goal.”
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Pulaski Academy quarterback Spencer Keith, who threw for over 4,000 yards last season, is also coming back from injury.
“What a story it is going to end up being,” Kelly said. “The kid tore his ACL playing basketball in January, had surgery in February and three or four months later he is already out playing 7-on-7. Next month he will be fully cleared, which is a testament to technology today and his work ethic. He is probably faster and stronger than he has ever been as a result of the injury.
Kansas State and Virginia Tech and SMU are schools that have shown interest as well as many Ivy League schools.
“He scored a 30 on his ACT so a bunch of those schools are telling him you’re our number one guy,” Kelly said. “Like I said, the story is going to play out with him being one of the best quarterbacks in the state, if not the best.”