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STATE SPORTS BRIEFS: Former Tide LB visits Hogs | Gunn hired as Paragould head coach | Former Arkansas catcher Ramirez dies

January 13, 2022 at 2:01 a.m.


Former Tide LB visits Hogs

Former Alabama linebacker Drew Sanders arrived in Fayetteville on Wednesday afternoon to visit the University of Arkansas.

Sanders, 6-5, 244 pounds, entered the NCAA transfer portal Tuesday, one day after the Crimson Tide lost to Georgia in the College Football Playoff Championship Game. He started three games in two seasons and had 33 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack.

He signed with Alabama over Oklahoma, LSU, Georgia, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State and other programs. Sanders played high school football for Denton (Texas) Ryan.

ESPN rated him a 4-star prospect, the No. 4 athlete and No. 36 overall prospect in the nation in the 2020 class. He was selected to the Under Armour All-American game.

Sanders' best game at Alabama came in a 31-29 victory over Florida in September when he recorded 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 1 quarterback hurry.

A source expects him to visit Oklahoma on Thursday and Texas on Friday.

-- Richard Davenport

Gunn hired as Paragould head coach

David Gunn, who has coached football at both the collegiate and high school levels in Arkansas, was hired by the Paragould School District on Monday as its head high school football coach, improvement specialist and boys and girls athletic program coordinator.

Gunn spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach at Arkansas State University, coaching running backs and defensive backs. He also served as the Red Wolves' interim head coach in the 2011 Bowl. Following his time in Jonesboro, Gunn was an assistant athletic director for football at Auburn for four years.

A former University of Arkansas football player and a 1982 graduate of England High School, Gunn spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Watson Chapel in the 1990s. He spent another five seasons as head coach at Little Rock McClellan High School, leading the team to two state playoff appearances.

The district will host a press conference at 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 14 at The Crossing Church in Paragould to introduce Gunn.

-- Adam Cole


Former Arkansas catcher Ramirez dies

FAYETTEVILLE -- Jean Ramirez, who spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the University of Arkansas, died Monday, the Tampa Bay Rays announced.

Ramirez, 28, was a bullpen catcher for the Rays the past three seasons.

The Rays did not provide information about the cause of Ramirez's death. Erik Neander, the club's baseball operations president, called his death "unexpected."

The Tampa Bay Times reported Ramirez died in Fort Worth where he attended high school. Ramirez was born in Puerto Rico.

Ramirez signed with Arkansas out of Boswell High School in 2010 and redshirted on the Razorbacks' College World Series team of 2012. He played in 16 games with nine starts at catcher in 2013.

"The entire Razorback baseball family is heartbroken by Jean's passing," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said in a statement. "We offer our deepest condolences to his loved ones during this difficult time. Jean will be missed."

Ramirez finished his collegiate career at Illinois State and was drafted by the Rays in the 28th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He spent three seasons in the Rays' minor-league system before he was released in 2018.

He joined the Rays' big-league team as a bullpen catcher for the 2019 season.

-- Matt Jones


UALR's Bianchi earns Pac-12 honors

For the first time in program history, the University of Arkansas-Little Rock can claim a weekly conference honor as Joseph Bianchi was named the Pac-12 Wrestler of the Week.

Bianchi, a redshirt sophomore, picked up a 5-0 decision in the Trojans' home loss against No. 4 Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Two Rivers, Wis., native had a takedown and two-point near fall early in his bout, giving Bianchi a team-best 71% winning percentage and bringing him to 6-0 this season at the Jack Stephens Center.

Bianchi is 10-4 this year as the sole starter at 149 pounds, while older brother Paul and younger brother Matty compete alongside him at UALR.

-- Mitchell Gladstone

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