Joshua Liddell is leaning toward accepting his latest scholarship offer.
Arkansas football head coach Bret Bielema and tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. visited Dollarway High on Thursday morning to meet with the Cardinals’ quarterback and offer him a scholarship. Liddell and Dollarway coach Cortez Lee confirmed the visit.
“I’m leaning on it, but I’m talking with my coach and my mom more about it,” said Liddell, who orally committed to Arkansas State before the season.
Liddell added he’ll make his decision “sometime soon,” but Lee believes that decision will come by Saturday. New Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson was expected to visit Liddell later in the school day.
Lee and Liddell said they knew for about a week Bielema and Lunney would visit, but neither had an idea it was to extend an offer.
“I didn’t know 100 percent, but when I knew coach Bielema and coach Lunney were coming, I knew something was urgent,” Lee said.
Dollarway finished 13-1, including its first undefeated regular season since 1992, and reached its second state semifinal in three seasons behind Liddell’s 1,202 rushing yards and 1,257 passing yards with 36 combined touchdowns. Liddell completed 44 of 58 passes with only one interception.
But Liddell has been recruited as a safety, where he made 45 tackles (24 solo) and intercepted three passes.
“They (Bielema and Lunney) just told me they’ve been evaluating my film more and more and that I’d be a good asset to the program,” Liddell said, asked what the Razorbacks coaches told him during Thursday’s visit. “I may get to contribute early.”
Liddell said he changed his mind “a little bit” about his oral commitment to Arkansas State after Bryan Harsin left the Red Wolves to take the head coaching position at Boise State. But Harsin apparently still has Liddell on his radar; during an interview with The Commercial, Lee fielded a call from Boise State. He said Liddell is the Broncos’ top recruit among defensive backs.
“These calls from coaches are picking up,” Lee said. “I think Josh is high on these guys’ radar. His grade-point average and ACT score (3.8 and 23, according to Lee) are good, and some of these other recruits may be falling off.”
Liddell also has offers from Boise State, Memphis and Southern Mississippi, and Louisiana-Monroe is heavily considering him, according to Lee. But should he choose Arkansas, Liddell — who runs a 4.43-second hand-timed 40-yard dash —said he would consider joining the Razorbacks’ perennial-power track and field team. Liddell finished second in the 400 meters and triple jump in last May’s 4A state meet.
Under NCAA rules, college coaches are not permitted to speak about recruits until they officially commit to a program. Oral commitments are non-binding.
National Signing Day, the first day when high school seniors may officially commit to a college team, is Feb. 5.
Lee, Liddell earn 4A awards
Liddell’s offer from the Razorbacks comes two days after he was named the Simmons First 4A Offensive Player of the Year. Lee was honored as Simmons First 4A Coach of the Year.
“I really feels good to be honored for all your accomplishments,” said Liddell, who also was a finalist for the Landers Award. “It’s big for our school, really.”
Liddell is also The Commercial’s Southeast Arkansas Offensive Player of the Year. His teammate, Kabion Ento, is the SEARK Defensive Player of the Year.
Lee called the honors a big accomplishment for Dollarway.
“It just shows that over time, you can accomplish some things with hard work,” Lee said. “Our ultimate goal is a state championship, but this is a big accomplishment for our program. Josh deserves every award he gets.”