Ra­zor­backs’ tar­get toed line against the best

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - RECRUITING/COLLEGE FOOTBALL - Email Richard Daven­port at rdav­en­port@arkansason­line.com RICHARD DAVEN­PORT

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.”


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