The adjustments made by the University of Arkansas freshman, Bryce Stephens, from high school football could be minimal as his prep program was conducted in a manner similar to that of college.
Oklahoma City Marshall Coach Jeff Horrocks has 14 years of experience in next level coaching with stints in Oklahoma State, Southern Miss, West Virginia and Fairmont State.
“My thing was, if I could do the program like we did in college, it would prepare our boys for the next level from an academic, strength and fitness point of view,” said Horrocks.
The requirements of a student-athlete at the SEC level can be a bit overwhelming for newbies, but not for Stephens since he experienced structure in high school.
“He was prepared for the commitment and understanding,” said Horrocks. “The schedule side of things really helped him the most.”
Stephens, 6-0, 180 pounds, inked with the razorbacks about scholarship offers from Oklahoma State, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Arizona, Arizona State, Nebraska, Iowa State, Washington State, Memphis, and others.
Horrocks recently spoke to Stephens about life in Fayetteville.
“He loves it,” said Horrocks. “He likes the atmosphere.”
Stephens noticed the references for a state, school during the recruitment process and helped him with his decision to become a razorback.
“The support across the state of Arkansas,” said Stephens of what appealed to him. “I just love Fayetteville. I thought it was the best place. Every time I went down there, everything was love. “
Razorbacks fans are one of the most active following on social media. The interaction was noticed by Stephens.
“It’s kind of like OU [Oklahoma]Said Stephens. “It was a dream of mine to be in such a state. That’s why I chose Arkansas. “
Stephens knows that growing talent in Arkansas and the SEC will be challenging.
“The biggest difference will likely be the persistence of competition and daily competition,” said Stephens.
He was one of six prospects Arkansas signed from Oklahoma for the 2021 class. One of his new teammates from his home state is freshman defensive lineman Solomon Wright, who attended Vian High School.
The two met in the field last year, and Wright roused Stephens with a harrowing tackle. Stephens knows that life as a recipient with the SEC will be very physical.
“It hurt a lot,” said Stephens of Wright’s tackle. “I got up and shook it off. I have to prepare for it, so I think it was an inversion of mine. I was at the receiver, I got around, and he was blind to me.”
Speed and volatility give Stephens a chance to see the field this season. As a senior he won the class 5A championship over 100 meters in 10.73 seconds. In the preliminary rounds he ran 10.64 seconds. Stephens finished second in the 200 finals in 21.96.
Stephens, a 3-star consensus, had 32 receptions for 686 yards, 9 touchdowns, 5 rushs for 21 yards and had 4 tackles, one interception and 3 pass breakups as a senior as a defensive back. He had 21 catches for 416 yards and 6 touchdowns and rushed 11 times for 224 yards and 3 touchdowns and also returned 4 punts for touchdowns as a junior.
One of his punt return scores was a spectacular 85-yard attempt against Oklahoma City’s Mount St. Mary, where he set the ball at the 15-yard line before retreating to the 5 for a would-be tacker to evade. He looked almost done and was attacked by several defenders around the 8th.
The videographer stopped shooting only to restart as Stephens sped across the 35 yard line on his way to the end zone.
“Everyone thought I was down, I knew I wasn’t down and I hoped the referees knew I wasn’t down,” said Stephens.
Stephens was grateful that the next officer didn’t whistle briefly.
“It was literally like we were in slow motion. I looked at him and he looked at me and he saw that I wasn’t downstairs,” said Stephens. “He also knew that I wasn’t downstairs. I thought, ‘Do you see that right? I’m not downstairs.’ So I got up again and just ran away. “
He said Arkansas staff had discussed his bringing boats back this fall.
“That’s the first thing you said,” said Stephens.
Horrocks sees Stephens as being an excellent return specialist.
“He’s so elusive and he’s a 4.3 child,” Horrocks said. “He’s just explosive. He’s one of those guys where you hold your breath every time he hits the ball.”
The return of punts is not for the faint of heart. You have to catch the ball while dodging the defenders who are running at full speed to make the tackle.
“I don’t want to give in or be seen like I’m afraid of anything, I’ll do it regardless of whether people come down or not,” said Stephens.
Stephens ‘playmaking skills changed the Bears’ momentum against Blanchard last year, helping them move to a 46:33 win.
“We were nothing back by 6 p.m. and within three minutes we were throwing three straight vertical balls and he just went over double cover and triple cover and made the game,” said Horrocks.
Bryce Stephens at a glance
HEIGHT / WEIGHT 6-0 / 180
HOME CITY Oklahoma City
UNIVERSITY John Marshall
DATE OF BIRTH June 28, 2002 (age 19)
REMARKABLE Tom Lemming 3-Star-Plus-Recruit, ESPN 3-Star Contender, recorded 10.69 seconds over 100 meters at the All-City Meet in April 2019 and 22.25 seconds over 200 meters at the state championship class 4A electronic 4.56 seconds in the 40 yard run at a warehouse in Arkansas in 2019