By John R. Schirmer
Scrapper fans generally approved of what they heard from football guru Barry Grooms at the Aug. 26 meeting of the Nashville Rotary Club.
They liked the fact that:
Grooms picked the Scrappers to defeat Hope in the season opener this Friday night.
He said Nashville will win District 7-4A.
The Razorbacks will be “much improved,” according to Grooms.
Ouachita Baptist and Henderson State will battle for the Great American Conference championship.
The only thing that didn’t receive general approval was his prediction that Dardanelle will win the Class 4A championship, with the Scrappers second.
Grooms is in his 17th year with Hooten’s Arkansas Football, a magazine which began 23 years ago. Grooms recounted the origin of the publication in the 1990s after Texas Football publisher Dave Campbell stopped doing an Arkansas version.
Chris Hooten came in from a New Mexico newspaper and bought the rights to the Arkansas Football name from Campbell. The first edition of Hooten’s publication came out in 1993.
This year’s version is 448 pages and is the largest football annual in the United States, Hooten said.
“Our mission is to promote high school athletics in a positive manner,” Grooms said.
College football is included in the magazine and on the Hooten’s TV show, in its 18th season on KATV, Channel 7. The program airs at 11 a.m. on Saturdays.
Grooms told the Rotary audience of Hooten’s predictions for the Scrappers. He spotted Coach Mike Volarvich in the audience and said, “Coach, you inherit a lot of expectations,” a statement with which the Rotarians agreed.
The Scrappers have “a lot of offensive and defensive linemen back.”
Dardanelle’s two-time All-State player is moving to quarterback. He has already committed to the University of Central Arkansas, according to Grooms. The Sand Lizards have five three-year starters on their offensive line.
Hooten’s picked Malvern to finish second in District 7-4A. The Leopards lost a linebacker to a torn ACL, Grooms said, but they have two “good junior running backs.”
Mena “came out of nowhere last year. By the luck of the draw, they played for a state title” but lost to Warren.
Other conference contenders include Ashdown and Fountain Lake, Grooms said.
The top teams in Class 4A “are all located below Interstate 40,” including the 7-4A teams, along with Dardanelle, Dover, Star City and Warren.
The Lumberjacks will start three freshmen and have a good defense, Grooms said.
Star City is picked to win the 8-4A title.
Grooms discussed the Scrappers’ upcoming opponent, the Hope Bobcats. “The talent is there. Can they put it together? McTelvin Agim gets all the attention. Nashville had their way with Hope last year. We’re picking Nashville to win.” He said Bobcat Coach Jay Turley, a former Scrapper, thinks Hope can make the playoffs.
The Bobcats defeated Texarkana 14-0 in a scrimmage last week, Grooms said.
Grooms picked Dierks to finish first in a “tough conference,” 7-2A West. “Murfreesboro is pretty good. They’ll compete for the playoffs. They have good numbers. Mt. Ida thinks this is the year they’ve been shooting for. We picked Gurdon to win the conference.”
Elsewhere in Class 2A, “Junction City is the team to beat until somebody knocks them off. We picked Rison second,” Grooms said.
In the other classifications, Smackover is picked to win 3A, Pulaski Academy 5A, Pine Bluff 6A and Fayetteville or Bentonville in 7A.
In the GAC, “Henderson and Ouachita will battle for the conference title. Harding is improved. SAU is improved but not able to compete for the title.”
In response to a question, Grooms said Ouachita redshirt freshman Cameron Alexander of Nashville “has had a good fall. I think he will play a lot.” The next day, Alexander was named the starting center for the Tigers.
“OBU is recruiting as well as anyone. They’ve visited every high school, and it’s paying dividends. I had one high school coach tell me that Ouachita did the best job in the state of recruiting the high schools,” Grooms said.
In the Sunbelt Conference, Arkansas State returns quarterback Fredi Knighten of Pulaski Academy. The Red Wolves return “eight or nine starters,” Grooms said. He picked them to win seven or eight games and play in a bowl game.
The Arkansas Razorbacks “should have seven or eight wins. The loss of Jonathan Williams will hurt them. He’s a really good player. He was the one player in their backfield who had a burst,” Grooms said.
The Hogs have “good receivers, but they face a tough [SEC] schedule. You don’t just go to Alabama and win. Auburn is set for a national title win. Seven or eight wins will be progress for Arkansas. The program is being built in the right way,” Grooms said.
Coach Bret Bielema “inherited nothing when he came in. He’s building it from the ground up. He’s getting close. He told the Little Rock Touchdown Club that the Razorbacks see how close they are. They’re hungry for success,” Grooms said.
Grooms told the Rotarians that he heard that LaMichael Pettway of Nashville “is supposed to redshirt. That’s what I heard last.”
Hooten’s picked TCU to win the national championship. However, Grooms leans toward Auburn. He looks for the college final four football teams to include Auburn, Ohio State, Oregon and TCU. “Georgia maybe,” instead of one of the others, he said. Oregon is another possibility.