It’s December and the University of Arkansas football program is going Hawaiian.
It’s expected up five players born in the islands of Hawaii will be making the trek to Fayetteville for official visits on the next two weekends.
That will get started this Friday when Butler Junior College defensive end Scott Smith (6-7, 275, 4.7) – the Jayhawk Conference Defensive Player of the Year – arrives for his visit.
A mid-term grad, Smith is a defensive standout who is – ironically – down to two offensive powers looking to upgrade on the other side of the ball.
“It’s just Arkansas and Texas Tech left for me,” Smith said. “I am going to end up at one of those two places, both which are great schools with great football programs. I have gotten to see Texas Tech and was nice and know I can’t wait to check out Arkansas.”
The following weekend will see four high school stars from Oahu’s Kapolei High School in Northwest Arkansas.
That quartet includes linebacker Shaydon Akuna (6-3, 210, 4.5 – the top rated player in Hawaii - fullback Dustin Elisara (6-2, 225, 4.6) and linebacker Tuu Lolohea (6-1, 225) along with defensive tackle Foi Foi (6-2, 270).
The first three have been long-time teammates have offers from Arkansas while Foi – who joined the trio this season - does not as of yet.
“All of us are really looking forward to making the flight out there and checking things out,” Akuna said. “Arkansas had a big-time football program and is in the SEC, which is the best there is when it comes to great teams and great players. It would be great to play in that league and we have all three talked about how it would be great to plat there together.”
Smith, being recruited by Arkansas assistant Garrick McGee just finished up a season where he had 69 tackles with 14 sacks and 14 other tackles for lost yardage.
He also recovered four fumbles, caused another and broke up two passes for good measure while achieving his goal of being named the league’s top defender.
“I’ll be real honest with you and tell you that it was really something that I set out to do before the start of the season,” Smith said. “I worked real hard during the offseason to put myself in that position and then I just went out and left it all on the field ever play.”
Smith signed with California out of Kailua St. Louis High School and spent a year there, but ended up matriculating to Butler where he turned into a force.
“I feel that it wasn’t intended to be at Cal and that my ending up at Butler was just something that was intended to be,” Smith said. “It has certainly helped me grow up and develop as a player and now I feel like I have a great opportunity to make the biggest impact I can on the major college level this next two years.”
Smith will sign with one of the two schools on Dec. 16, the national mid-term junior college signing date.
That will allow him to go through spring practice with either the Razorbacks or the Red Raiders.
Arkansas has made it clear how much they would like to bring him on board with senior defensive end Adrian Davis headed out the door.
“They have really let me know how much they want me to play for them and how they expect me to come in and make a big-time impact right away,” Smith said. “When you are coming from junior college – that’s a key. You’ve got to know you are going to have the chance to play and make a difference right away if you work hard and deserve it.”
The fact that Arkansas is in the SEC – a league bidding for its fourth straight national title when Alabama meets Texas – doesn’t hurt one bit.
“The SEC is a big-time conference and that’s proven each week with the great teams and great games that they have,” Smith said. “And they always seem to be standing there at the end with the trophy.”
Smith said he thinks that is something that could happen if he came there – especially because of Arkansas sophomore quarterback Ryan Mallett.
“They have a big, big-time quarterback that could possibly win the Heisman next season and a team that is really on the move and has a great future,” Smith said. “I think they really have a chance to challenge in the SEC for a championship and when you do that, your right there for the national title.”
Some of the other visitors expected in this weekend are cornerbacks Damian Payne (6-0, 185) of Klein (Texas) Forrest and Joseph Byrd (5-10, 170) of Cape Coral (FL) Baker; quarterback Jacoby Walker (6-2, 210) of Spring, Texas, defensive end Brandon Denmark (6-4, 215) of Tallahassee (FL) Rickards and kicker Eddie Camara, the UA commit from Cedar Hill, Texas.
Langley is a former Tennessee signee who is a mid-term graduate and thus could go through spring practice.
Payne is a Utah commit and is also a mid-term grad.