For his first regular National Signing Day at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Alonzo Hampton has lived up to promises made when he became head football coach just before Christmas.
He wanted to recruit Arkansas hard and then go into surrounding states to find the newest Golden Lions. On Wednesday, his 42nd day on the job, Hampton signed four from the Natural State and another from Texas, all from the high school ranks.
Not only that, Hampton addressed some needs at key positions and found athletes who also excel in the classroom.
"It's a good day to be a Golden Lion," he remarked.
It was a big day for the Lions, who did not land any recruits during the December signing period as Hampton was officially hired Dec. 22. Hampton expects to sign more in the coming days, but he wants to see who from the 2022 season will help fill out his 2023 roster. The regular signing period for Division I concludes April 1.
"I don't want to be Portal University, but I will evaluate these kids like I did my coaches," he said, adding his desire is to build his program with high school players. "I want to win with the guys here and add pieces to make us better. We'll be smart about the kids we target in the transfer portal if we need to."
Once Hampton lands his coordinators, he said, he'll have an opportunity to focus on the players already on campus and make more evaluations.
Forrest City offensive lineman Elijah Hardin was UAPB's first confirmed signee Wednesday. At 6-feet-7 and 360 pounds, Hardin could fill a big void left behind by Mark Evans III, who could be drafted by an NFL team this spring.
"The young man did a great job of trimming down and losing weight," Hampton said of Hardin. "He's one of those guys you look at, and you think about Mark Evans and Terron Armstead. We gave Armstead a half-scholarship [in 2009], and he came here for football and track. The rest is history."
Armstead completed his 10th NFL season and his first with the Miami Dolphins.
Hampton also landed Fayetteville strong safety and cornerback Deuce Cooper (5-feet-11, 169 pounds), whose father Ron is head coach at Long Island University and a former University of Arkansas assistant. Cooper made 25 solo tackles with an interception.
"Deuce is probably one of the smartest football players you'll ever meet," Hampton said of the two-time all-conference player. "He's very intelligent and will help a lot."
Nassir Donohoo (6-3, 170) of Morrilton, who played high school football at Quitman, has thrown his name into a competitive race for the starting role with the graduation of five-year letterman Skyler Perry. Donohoo, a student with a 3.9-grade point average according to Hampton, threw for 2,000 yards and rushed for 1,500 this past season, using his 4.49-second 40-yard speed.
"This young man fits everything I want," Hampton said. "He's a dual-sport athlete. If you turn his film on, you'll see he can flat-out run."
Donohoo won a 2A state championship in the 4x100-meter relay and finished second in the 100 and 200 meters last season.
Magnolia running back B.J. Curry (5-9, 177) broke multiple school rushing records and is a two-time all-state performer, as well as the 110-meter hurdles winner in the Meet of Champions.
Curry will aim for the starting role left behind by Kayvon Britten, who transferred to Tarleton State University in Texas. Britten ran for 16 touchdowns and 1,063 yards last fall.
"He can be the touchdown machine," Hampton said of Curry. "I think that guy will be the same build. He will have Simmons Bank Field [at Golden Lion Stadium] rocking with this young man."
Defensive end Kam Bizor (6-3, 230) is the latest UAPB signee out of Houston's C.E. King High School, following Evans. Bizor drew 16 Division I offers, Hampton said, many of them to Power Five-conference teams.
"Better than that, he's a five-star human being," Hampton said. "He's the first guy committed to me. He rallied the rest of the guys we had on an official visit."
Bizor orally committed to UAPB on Monday, according to Rivals.com. He finished the 2022 season with 27.5 sacks and 39 tackles for losses, earning first-team all-state accolades.
"He will cause havoc in this league," Hampton said.
One of Hampton's first marquee games at UAPB, if not the first, will be the Southern Heritage Classic against Tennessee State University at 6 p.m. Sept. 9 at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis. UAPB announced this week tickets for that game will go on sale Friday and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com.
UAPB 2023 football signees
Name; position; hometown/last school; height; weight
Kam Bizor; DE; Houston/C.E. King HS; 6-3; 230
Deuce Cooper; SS/CB; Fayetteville/Fayetteville HS; 5-11, 169
B.J. Curry; RB; Magnolia/Magnolia HS; 5-9; 177
Nassir Donahoo; QB; Morrilton/Quitman HS; 6-3; 170
Elijah Hardin; OL; Forrest City/Forrest City HS; 6-7; 360