FAYETTEVILLE — Saturday’s game was already going to be special for Quincey McAdoo.
A large group of family and friends from his hometown of Clarendon — as well as about 150 kids, many of whom are peewee football players — plan to make the 4 hour, 253-mile trip from east Arkansas and take over section 508 of Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Instead of watching on the SEC Network, they’ll see the former four-star recruit and his teammates take on No. 23 Liberty live and in person when the two teams kick off at 3 p.m. CT.
“It might be the only opportunity ever for some of them to be able to do this, so it’s a really special thing,” Clarendon High football coach Mark Courtney said. “Then on top of that, to get to go watch Quincey, it’s just icing on the cake.”
Making the occasion even sweeter is the possibility of McAdoo getting his first real playing time with the Razorbacks. A true freshman who recently converted from wide receiver to defensive back, he’s played some on special teams, but that’s it.
That could change against Liberty. Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman dropped a bomb in his weekly press conference Monday afternoon that he would compete with Malik Chavis — who has been fully cleared since suffering a concussion against BYU and missing the Auburn game — for the starting job at cornerback opposite of Dwight McGlothern.
“It’s time that we get him out there,” Pittman said. “He’s a good player and we’ve moved him over there for a reason and (not playing DB yet) has nothing to do with athletic ability, because he’s as talented as anybody over there. It has everything with understanding what to do. I believe we need to increase his reps at practice and give him an opportunity to get on the field.”
For a small town with a population of just 1,526 and a Class 2A high school that hadn’t produced an FBS signee in more than two decades, the stars could be aligning for an unforgettable day in Fayetteville.
The Recruitment of Quincey McAdoo
It wasn’t always been obvious that Quincey McAdoo would remain in state.
He first emerged on the recruiting scene as a sophomore, picking up offers from Florida State and Houston before Arkansas jumped on board a couple of weeks later, early in Sam Pittman’s tenure.
At the time, McAdoo said it was “a dream come true” because he’d wanted an opportunity to play for the Razorbacks. He debuted in Rivals’ initial top 100 ranking for the Class of 2022 as an athlete, who could be a wide receiver or defensive back at the next level.
However, Florida State quickly emerged as the favorite to land his services and he actually committed to the Seminoles in January of his junior year. The Razorbacks didn’t give up, though, and with new wide receivers coach Kenny Guiton leading the charge, they flipped him three months later.
Listed at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds and blessed with speed (ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash in high school), Arkansas — and most other schools — eventually recruited him solely as a receiver, even though he played all over the field at Clarendon.
“It was always receiver talk, but you always like a guy that’s a two-way player,” Pittman said. “You can see the toughness that he had playing defense and he was a very, very good defensive back. It’s just we thought that his best quality was on offense and that’s what he wanted to play. But I think he’s enjoying his time over on defense right now.”
When McAdoo and teammate Dax Courtney — a three-star tight end who began his high school career at DeWitt — signed with the Razorbacks, they were the first FBS signees from Clarendon since Cedric Houston spurned his home state in 2001 by picking Tennessee. The last Arkansas signee from the school was offensive lineman Scott Davenport in the Class of 1999.
Here’s a reminder of just how good Quincey McAdoo was in high school:
Playing Wide Receiver at Arkansas
Even though he was an early enrollee, Quincey McAdoo missed the start of spring ball because of a minor knee surgery. When he got healthy and returned to the field, it was evident that he struggled with the transition from high school to college.
Things seemed to be coming at him fast and, as a result, he dropped a few passes. Throw in the fact that he was making the jump from Arkansas Class 2A to the SEC, a redshirt seemed extremely likely, despite his accolades coming out of Clarendon.
Coming back in the fall, though, McAdoo looked like a different player. With a better grasp of the offense, his talent was on full display in the segments of practice open to the media. He looked smooth in his routes and made several impressive catches in one-on-one drills against defensive backs.
“It’s easy to see he’s a guy who came in early, got a good grasp of the offense,” wide receivers coach Kenny Guiton said in August. “Obviously, he’s still learning, still in that learning curve process to where you can tell once that kid gets it down, he’s going to be an animal. I think he’s going to be an animal.”
There was a time when he seemed to be pushing for a spot in the two-deep, even getting a lot of second-team reps when redshirt freshman Jaedon Wilson went down with an injury.
He did make the 70-man travel roster and worked his way onto the field as a member of the punt return unit against Missouri State and Texas A&M, but then suffered an injury of his own. He was spotted with his a cast on his right wrist before the Alabama game and Sam Pittman later revealed it was a hand injury.
Flipping Sides of the Ball
About that time, the Arkansas football team was in a pretty tough spot in the secondary. Jalen Catalon and LaDarrius Bishop went down with season-ending injuries and several other defensive backs were in and out of the training room with various ailments.
Things got so thin in that group that Sam Pittman actually asked freshman wide receiver Sam Mbake to move to corner, which he happily did. Not long after that, Quincey McAdoo approached Pittman about making a similar move.
Sure enough, McAdoo was spotted doing drills with the cornerbacks at practice leading up to the BYU game, having switched his jersey number from 81 to 24 and wearing a club to protect his hand.
Mark Courtney, his high school coach, said he wasn’t surprised at all when he heard it was McAdoo’s idea to change positions.
“You’ve got a high-profile athlete in a very small town, normal perception would be ‘Well, he thinks he’s (special),’” Courtney said. “He’s not. He’s a very humble kid and he’s very unselfish, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that he would do whatever it took to help the team.”
McAdoo has since ditched the club on his hand and has seen his special teams role expand, adding kickoff return, kickoff coverage and punt coverage duties to his plate. He played against BYU and Auburn, so he’ll burn his redshirt the next time he steps on the field.
It sounds like that will happen Saturday and that the Razorbacks aren’t planning to waste the year, either. His teammates have praised him for how he’s adjusted in practice, with cornerback Hudson Clark describing him as “really physical” and a “beast” who can get out of his breaks fast.
Wide receiver Ketron Jackson Jr. said he’s gone against McAdoo in one-on-one situations a few times and he came away impressed with his sheer athleticism, which was also mentioned by linebacker Drew Sanders.
“Watching him go through practice, he can do some things that kind of wows you a little bit,” Sanders said. “He’s extremely athletic. Just the way he’s adapted to playing defense so fast, it’s really amazing.”
The key for McAdoo has simply been learning the playbook. It helps that he’s really smart, as evidenced by him playing multiple positions on either side of the ball in high school, but Courtney admitted the SEC is a different beast than what he had at Clarendon.
“My playbook is a lot different than theirs. We’re a lot more simple. … He’s seen a lot of different things. Again, it’s not comparable to their playbook, but it can’t hurt him. He’s got a pretty good grasp of every position”
Clark added that the communication from Arkansas’ safeties, such as Latavious Brini, has really helped his development in that regard.
Even with the return of Chavis, who has started five of eight games this season, McAdoo was seen running with the first-team defense during both practice viewing periods open to the media this week. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee he’ll get the nod, but Pittman said Wednesday that he liked what he’d seen from the freshman so far.
“We knew he was talented,” Pittman said. “It was more about learning everything he needed to know to get on the field. But I wanted him to get a lot of reps with the 1s. I don’t know that he’ll start or not, but he’s looked really good this week.”
What’s Next for Quincey McAdoo
Although they’ll remain on defense through the rest of this season, Sam Pittman has left the door open for Quincey McAdoo and Sam Mbake to move back to receiver in the spring, leaving the decision entirely up to them.
They were part of a talented trio of four-star wide receivers in the Razorbacks’ 2022 signing class that also included Isaiah Sategna, the speedster from Fayetteville.
Mbake has also played special teams and made the key block that sprung Bryce Stephens’ big punt return against Missouri State. Sategna finally made his debut on special teams at BYU and gained 10 yards on a pop pass last week at Auburn.
McAdoo seemingly has an opportunity to be the first of that trio to make a significant impact with the Razorbacks.
“He’s a freak,” Courtney said. “We debated time in and time out in the office about which he was better at because what you run into is you’ve got such an elite athlete who’s so fast and so skilled, but he’s so physical also. In high school, he made plays in the backfield from safety.”
“On the flip side of that, he’s as good a cover guy as I’ve seen in high school. There’s no doubt in my mind, defensively, that he’s got the mindset. I’ve had receivers over the years that were receivers. They didn’t have that defensive mindset. Quincey can do it. Quincey… He’s special.”
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