Photographs by Jimmy Jones
Greenwood quarterback Connor Noland looks to throw during a game against Benton on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, in Benton.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Connor Noland never wavered from his commitment to the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Greenwood native committed to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville to play football and baseball on July 20, 2016, choosing the Hogs over football scholarship offers from UCLA, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Missouri, Ole Miss, North Carolina, Penn State and others. When he originally committed, Bret Bielema was the Razorbacks' football coach.
Almost two years later, Bielema is no longer on the Fayetteville campus. But Noland is a Razorback and will play for new coach Chad Morris, who was hired in December.
"I said when I committed I wasn't going to decommit," Noland said. "I was true to my word."
The Hogs' first Class of 2018 commitment officially became part of the SEC program in the world's largest amphitheater.
Noland signed his national letter of intent Dec. 20 at the Colosseum in Rome while on a family vacation during winter break.
"When in Rome, become a Razorback!" Noland tweeted after signing.
Noland shined on the football field and on the baseball diamond for Greenwood.
In football, Noland completed 238 of 348 passes for 2,801 yards, 34 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 2017. He rushed for 239 yards and five touchdowns.
Noland engineered the Bulldogs' eighth football state championship and first since 2012, completing 20 of 27 passes for 304 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception in a 52-14 rout of Pine Bluff in the Class 6A title game on Dec. 1 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
On the mound, Noland went 10-0 with a 0.42 ERA, striking out 123 batters, while batting .424 with 4 home runs, 37 RBI and 26 walks. Noland struck out 12 batters and allowed 2 hits in Greenwood's 4-0 victory over Benton in the Class 6A state championship game May 19 at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Noland is looking forward to playing for Morris.
"I love the guy. He's high energy," Noland said. "The offense is high-paced. We're going to throw the ball around and sling it. It's an exciting time to be a Razorback fan and player."
When it comes to baseball, Noland said he'll feel out the situation for the first year.
"I don't know how exactly it's going to work out," Noland said. "But you've seen it with Kyler Murray [Oklahoma quarterback and outfielder and Oakland Athletics' first-round draft pick in June].
"We're going to make it work. The scheduling is the key to it."
Noland, who moved to Greenwood before the spring semester of his freshman year in 2014-2015 from Nevada, said he's always been a Razorbacks fan. Even in Nevada, he was cheering on the Hogs.
"I saw Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. They were studs," Noland said. "I always dreamed of playing in that red uniform."
Morris' up-tempo offense is similar to what Greenwood runs, Bulldogs Coach Rick Jones said. He believes Noland will be able to pick up the first-year Razorbacks boss' offense quickly.
"It translates very well," Jones said. "The things they do, X and O wise, is very similar. We do a lot of similar things. The terminology is just different.
"Once the terminology is done, he'll get it. There's a little bit of carryover there."
While Noland played in the state's second-largest classification in Class 6A, the SEC is on a different level, Jones said.
"In the SEC, you're playing guys that are going to play in the NFL," Jones said. "The speed of the game takes an adjustment. He'll adapt. He's gone all over the country and competed in tournaments. He won't be intimidated."
Noland will be competing for the starting quarterback position with sophomore Cole Kelley and junior Ty Storey.
"It's a competition," Noland said. "We're just going to get after it."
Jones has coached several athletes who have signed Division I national letter of intents, including quarterbacks Tyler Wilson (Arkansas) and Daniel Stegall (Miami), and wide receiver Drew Morgan. Where does Noland rank with those three former Bulldogs for Jones?
"He's right there with them," Jones said. "We've been really lucky. We've had so many great guys."
Sports on 07/10/2018
At a glance
HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-2, 195 pounds
HIGH SCHOOL Greenwood
AGE 18 (born July 20, 1999)
NOTEWORTHY Signed with the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville to play football and baseball. … Led Greenwood to Class 6A state football and baseball championships in 2017-2018. … Completed 238 of 348 passes for 2,801 yards, 34 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Rushed for 239 yards and five touchdowns. … Went 10-0 with a 0.42 ERA in 66 2/3 innings pitched. … Struck out 123 batters. … Hit .424 with 4 home runs and 37 RBI.
The fourth in a series highlighting newcomers to the Arkansas Razorbacks football team.
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