Razorbacks’ target toed line against the best
Twenty of the best offensive linemen in the nation took part in The Opening, the prestigious event that featured the top 166 prospects in the nation at Nike Headquarters from July 1-3.
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville offensive line target Curtis Dunlap Jr. made it to the Final 5 competition that pitted the best five linemen on both sides of the ball against each other.
ESPN recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert said Dunlap shined in the finals.
“He really finished strong,” Haubert said. “Him making the Final 5 was kind of a testament to the strides he’s made … in the weight room and as a player. He seems to be embracing the ability to play multiple positions, having made the move to center and back out to guard.”
Dunlap, 6-5, 363 pounds out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., announced in March a top five of the Razorbacks, Florida, Oklahoma, Georgia and Michigan from more than 40 scholarship offers.
While happy with his performance, Dunlap deflected praise.
“I’m honestly just blessed to be in the position I’m in,” Dunlap said. “I couldn’t do anything without God and my amazing support system.”
The Opening featured numerous NFL players as instructors, and Dunlap used the event as an opportunity to get better and soak up knowledge. Dunlap revealed the main advice he received from the professionals.
“You don’t get to the league just on talent, you have to have an obsession with developing your craft,” Dunlap said.
Haubert said Dunlap has areas to work on, but his hand placement was exceptional.
“I think the one thing in watching him is the one key for him to continue to work on is just staying a little bit lower and bending at the knees,” Haubert said. “But his hand work in the final reps, especially that last rep … he does a great job of rerouting his hands inside and gaining leverage.
“He really did a good job of being patient in the second rep. A guy went outside and tried to go back inside on him and he didn’t bite. Those three reps were kind of a nice way to summarize the work he had been doing up to that point.”
Most prospects gain confidence from such a showing. Dunlap sees room for improvement.
“I just came away with the understanding that there are more places I need work in,” he said.
ESPN rates Dunlap the No. 2 center and No. 121 overall prospect. Haubert said The Opening performance makes Dunlap worthy of his ranking.
“I think after seeing that it kind of solidified how we felt,” Haubert said.
Haubert thinks IMG Academy’s tough schedule could help Dunlap break into ESPN’s top 100.
“If he continues on this pace and growing, I definitely could see him getting consideration of being in the top 100,” Haubert said.
Whatever success Dunlap has, he’ll likely remain humble and well rounded in the same way he presented himself at The Opening.
“My mom and my dad just instilled at a young age to be polite,” Dunlap said. “Respect people, and it’s taken me a long way. It’s got me to where I am today. Football is a big game, hard game and aggressive, but you have to know when to be aggressive and not to be aggressive. To know when somebody is showing you respect, you show them respect, and if they’re not showing you respect, you don’t have to show them disrespect, you can just walk away.” Dunlap, who plans to make official visits to his final five schools, hopes to announce his college decision in October, then enroll at that school in January.
Coach Bret Bielema and offensive line coach Kurt Anderson are two key reasons the Hogs have a solid shot at landing him.
“They’re just really good people,” Dunlap said. “They’re interested in me, not just as a football player, but as a person and developing me as a man and not just Curtis the football player, but Curtis the future dad, the brother and cousin. Just developing me as a player and a person.”