NATIONAL SIGNING DAY:
Eight is great for Bentonville signees
February 1, 2012
BENTONVILLE Ian Tucker knew Pittsburg State was the place for him to go even before the Gorillas won the NCAA Division II national championship in December.
The opportunity to play with some of his current and former Bentonville teammates made things even sweeter.
The offensive lineman was one of eight Tigers to sign their letters of intent Wednesday inside the Tiger Athletic Complex. Fellow offensive lineman Bo Weber and Mason Snow also signed with Pittsburg State, which had 40 players sign on the opening day.
“It feels great to know where I’m going,” he said. “I’m excited about being a Gorilla.
“I just loved the community over there. Everybody over there is part of the whole team, and the coaches were the best I’ve seen of the visits I took. It’s also good that I’ll already know some of my teammates up there and we can continue playing together. ”
Three players chose to remain instate as quarterback Dallas Hardison signed with Henderson State, wide receiver Desmond Smith chose Central Arkansas and outside linebacker DeMarcus Murphy picked Harding University. Meanwhile, tight end Justin Caylor signed with Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, Mo., and center Alex Westermeyer picked Southern Nazarene in Oklahoma City.
“I’m pretty sure that’s the most I’ve had sign at one time,” Bentonville coach Barry Lunney said. “This is an unusually large number — I don’t care who you are or where you are or what level, it don’t matter.
“This is a wonderful day for all of them. We’re very humbled by the fact we’ve had some kids to work with that have the athletic ability and the desire to get better. These guys have enjoyed each other, worked hard and still had fun. They still kept the little kid part of the game fun for them.”
Tucker (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) and Weber (6-3, 257) made up Bentonville’s starting offensive tackles. Snow (6-foot, 160) led the Tigers with 79 receptions for 1,307 yards and had 14 touchdowns, as well as another on a punt return in the state playoffs against West Memphis.
Hardison (5-10, 170), the most accurate passer in state high school history, may have been the biggest shocker of the group. He committed to Henderson and remained loyal to the Reddies despite a late push by Missouri State to enter the picture.
“Henderson State, from day one, it seemed like they were on me,” he said. “They definitely wanted me down there. I went on a visit and felt right at home. I loved the interest that they put forth toward me as a player and felt it was the place for me.”
UCA became the first school to make and offer to Smith (6-2, 180), who led Bentonville with 17 touchdown passes and finished the season with 66 receptions and 1,123 yards. He rewarded the Bears with his commitment and hopes to be an early contributor.
“There’s a lot of emotion that builds up during the season and even the summer before,” he said. “It’s just like ‘where am I going to go and who is going to offer?’ You learn you have to get that out of the way real quick.
“Now I can move on an play at the next level, and I’m looking forward to it. UCA showed me that first little bit of love. They were the ones to give me that first offer, and that was a big thing.”
Murphy (6-foot, 190) was a late addition to the list when Harding made a late push. The outside linebacker had 64 tackles, including 42 solos and four for lost yardage, and had two pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.
Caylor (6-2, 224), who shared time with Jack Kraus at tight end, caught only seven passes for 79 yards, but three of them were for touchdowns. That included Bentonville’s first touchdown pass of the season against North Little Rock and a 16-yard touchdown reception in the Class 7A State Championship.
Westermeyer (5-11, 245) is Bentonville’s lone representative in the All-Star Football Game in June. He was the lone returning starter on the offensive line entering the season and played half the season despite having a broken bone in his leg.