The pull for in-state recruits to stay home has always been strong, but ever since Sam Pittman took over the Arkansas football program in December 2019, one could argue it’s never been stronger.
Four-star defensive end and edge rusher TJ Lindsey of Bryant High is another in a long list of players from the central part of the state who has plentiful offers from more than 33 schools including Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon and USC.
This is coming off a dominant junior season where Lindsey compiled 44 tackles, four for loss, seven sacks, 19 quarterback hurries and a pass breakup as the Hornets went 12-0 and outscored their opponents 442-134.
The Recruitment of TJ Lindsey
TJ Lindsey, 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, recently visited Notre Dame and the Fighting Irish appear like a strong contender to be his college choice at this stage.
“I’ve known Notre Dame my whole life,” Lindsey told Ryan Roberts of Sports Illustrated. “Iconic, that’s all you can really see. Everything from the jerseys, the helmets, the school, the education, it’s second to none really.”
On top of the prestige, Notre Dame has also made a good relationship with Lindsey. He has connected with the coaches on a more personal level, which could factor heavily in his decision.
“The relationships with Notre Dame are all great,” Lindsey explained. “I love Coach (Al) Washington. He is one of my favorite coaches. We connect on more of a personal level. It’s really not about football anymore. We just talk casually to build the relationship. That’s my guy, for sure.”
Lindsey speaks highly of Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman, too.
Arkansas offered Lindsey on June 9 of last year and he has visited Fayetteville three times. He knows that fans around the state would love for him to stay and join an already loaded 2024 recruiting class that is oozing with in-state talent.
“When (Pittman) offered, I had the biggest smile,” Lindsey told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “My blood was pumping a little more. It’s a dream come true. Being from here, I’ve always watched the Hogs.”
When it comes to the decision-making process, Lindsey is keeping his circle pretty tight.
“My parents are the only people I’d turn to for opinions or advice, but even they want me to make the best decision for me,” he said.
Lots of schools are courting Lindsey hard. He told Best of Arkansas Sports that Texas A&M, Texas, Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee, USC and Michigan are “the ones showing the most interest.”
Comparison to Former Arkansas Football Star
Whatever school ultimately lands TJ Lindsey will be getting a steal, Arkansas Elite 100 recruiting director Earl Gill said.
“The sky’s the limit for TJ,” Gill said. “He’s just scratching the surface of his potential. Any school that lands him, it will pay off for them.”
Gill compared Lindsey to former Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson, who starred for the Razorbacks from 2004-06 and was taken eighth overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Just like it was with Anderson, Lindsey’s athleticism gives him positional versatility. He is effective in defending the run and capable of dropping back into coverage, and his size makes him a tough player to pass over or around. Lindsey doesn’t give up on plays and tracks down his prey relentlessly.
He’s not getting around lineman on pure size or athleticism, but he knows how to combine the two which is what makes him effective. He likes to go to a spin move to get around potential blockers and is good at it.
“He is an impact player ready to contribute on day one,” Gill added. “There will be no learning curve with him.”
Finishing at Bryant
Bryant has won an unprecedented five consecutive state titles in 7A, the highest classification for football in Arkansas. TJ Lindsey has starred on the last two of those.
The pressure to not be the class to end the streak exists, although Lindsey and his teammates know that if they play to their potential, no one will beat them.
“I see my senior year going just like my last couple of years, making a jump in play and winning another championship,” Lindsey said. “Winning is a tradition around here.”
Buck James, Bryant’s head coach, has taken Lindsey under his wing since he was a freshman in the Hornet program.
“Me and Coach James are very close,” Lindsey said. “Always have been since ninth grade, he told me my recruiting would happen like this. On the field, he’s the best kind of coach you can ask for.”
Lindsey is the highest-rated player to ever play for Bryant in the James era, and he said it was an honor to have the accolades and the attention that has been bestowed upon him.
The Deciding Factor for Lindsey
If TJ Lindsey does decide to stay home and play for the Razorbacks, he said it would come down to whether or not it feels like the right fit.
“Whatever school I choose, it will be if it’s everything I feel I need or want in a school,” Lindsey said. “I am looking for a school that has a great game-day atmosphere, makes me feel at home, and can develop me for the next level.”
He told Best of Arkansas Sports that he plans to release his top 10 schools in mid-May, with a top five to follow after June. His commitment is tentatively scheduled for early in the season.
Arkansas defensive coordinator Travis Williams and defensive line coach Deke Adams have been in constant contact with Lindsey and have made him a priority. Lindsey’s Twitter profile has also left hints he is interested in staying home.
Lindsey’s commitment would cement the 2024 in-state crop of recruits as one of the best to ever suit up for Arkansas football if everyone made it to campus.
Bryant Hornets Athletic Legacy
Bryant is more known for producing baseball players, such as current Razorbacks Will McEntire and Austin Ledbetter as well as 2016 World Series champion Travis Wood, who graduated from Bryant back in 2005.
The 5-time defending state champion Bryant Hornets can also create some good football players, such as Lindsey who has helped Bryant bring home the last three championships. Current Arkansas offensive lineman Brooks Edmonson hails from the home of the Hornets and KJ Hill, the all-time leading receiver at Ohio State, started his high school career at Bryant before transferring to North Little Rock in a controversial move.
TJ Lindsey is next in line to trade in the blue and white for new threads with hopes of playing professional football.
Braden Sarver contributed to this article.
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