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story.lead_photo.caption Former Hog Junior Soli and son Mataio

University of Arkansas defensive end commitment Mataio Soli is one of at least six high school prospects expected to enroll in January.

"It's hitting me now, but I've been ready for this since school started," Soli said. "I just want to go up there and make an impact and be a part of the turn-around."

Defensive end Eric Gregory, receiver Shamar Nash, defensive end Zach Williams, receiver Trey Knox and cornerback Devin Bush also plan to enroll early.

Soli, 6-3, 227 pounds, from Douglasville (Ga.) Douglas County accumulated more than 50 scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Florida State, Oregon, Stanford, Virginia and others before he pledged to the Hogs in June.

His father, Junior, who was an All-SEC nose guard in 1995, is the defensive line coach at Douglas County while his mother Karen is from Sparkman and is an Arkansas graduate.

Being away from his parents will be tough, he said, but he looks forward to college life.

"It's good for me to be on my own. I'm ready for it," Mataio Soli said. "I'm just going to miss being around them a lot."

Soli was named the Region 5-6A Player of the Year after recording 84 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 22.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hurries, 2 forced fumbles and a recovered fumble this season.

The elder Soli is excited for his son, knowing numerous family members in Arkansas will be there for him.

"We have a lot of family in Arkansas, so it's not like leaving empty-handed," Junior said. "He'll be independent and he'll have to go out and make decisions for himself. He's excited and we're excited for him."

The early enrollee craze came about 10 years after Junior reported to Fayetteville in 1992 and has become more popular over the last five years or so. He likes the idea of Mataio getting a jump start on his Razorback career.

"I'm kind of digging this early enroll stuff," Junior said. "It gives you a heads-up on a lot of kids. Learn the system and get there and see what the spring semester is like as far as academics and getting a schedule together as far as study hall and work outs and spring practice."

Mataio and his family were expected to host defensive line coach John Scott Jr. and defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell for an in-home visit Thursday night. He's looking to be 240 to 250 pounds next season.

"I just need to gain a little more weight and just make sure I'm handling business everywhere I'm supposed to," Mataio said. "I want to go up there and show I can play now. I really want to play as soon as possible. That's my goal."

Coach Chad Morris, Scott, Caldwell and others on the staff were key in Mataio deciding to be a Hog. When Junior and Karen drop off their son at Arkansas, they said they are confident he'll be in good hands.

"Mataio fell in love with the coaching staff and has built a good relationship with them," Junior said. "I'm pretty comfortable leaving my son in Coach Morris' hands."

Mataio is one of nine defensive line commitments for Arkansas. The group has five 4-star prospects by various recruiting services, including Soli.

"I really like the defensive line group coming in and obviously the skill position guys are going to be really good," Junior said.

Mataio said he and the other commitments stay in touch via group texts. Bush and defensive lineman Enoch Jackson Jr. keep the group laughing.

"Devin Bush, he's just hilarious," Mataio said. "He's the funniest dude in the chat. I say Devin and Enoch. They're the two clowns."

Junior is looking forward to the future.

"I'm looking forward to the new season and watching Mataio start this next chapter in his life," Junior said.

Email Richard Davenport at

Sports on 11/30/2018

Print Headline: Soli, dad look forward to early start

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