Jim Harris’ All Access: They Don’t Make Enough Dan Hamptons

Imagine what the Arkansas Razorback football program could be if Central Arkansas produced the likes of Dan Hampton, Jimmy Walker and Dale White more often.

Those three came out of  high school in the same year, playing in the East-West All-Star Game in 1975. White, from Benton, is the least remembered of trio, but he had a pretty solid Arkansas career as well at noseguard. Hampton, from Jacksonville, and Walker, a Little Rock Central grad, were probably the best one-two punch of defensive tackles in college football in 1978. All three tasted major college football as true freshmen, which may be more expected these days of 85 scholarships but was unheard of for D-linemen back then when the team limit was 105 (and initial offers in February totaled 35).

Walker didn’t get his scholarship offer until after his showing in the All-Star Game, which back then was played in August. Hampton recalled it all Tuesday at the Little Rock Touchdown Club, which was also unveiling its new Dan Hampton Award that will go to the best defensive lineman in Arkansas at season’s end. Hampton said Walker “ate himself up to 280 pounds” from 220 by the All-Star Game. That’s more likely in “today’s pounds” — like “today’s dollars” compared with 1975’s — as I seem to recall it closer to 250, which was being pretty stout then. Hampton remember himself being 240 pounds heading to the university, but it may have been closer to 220 soaking wet.

White was a linebacker in the All-Star Game, and Hampton had to block him from the right guard spot. Yes, Hampton was used as an offensive lineman. One day he’d enter the NFL Hall of Fame as one of its greatest defensive linemen.

Who could have seen that coming?

If they handed out recruiting “stars” back then, none of that trio would have merited more than 3. Walker would have been seen in the previous fall’s football season as too small for big-time football (not tall or heavy enough) and White and the lanky Hampton would have had to be projected for their eventual positions.

Arkansas’ Ken Turner saw it in Hampton and decided to stay on him, but Hampton told the crowd Tuesday he was always a Razorback, never to be anything else (except a Chicago Bear after college football).

Hampton had first Jimmy Johnson as a position coach and the team’s defensive coordinator for two years, then Harold Horton moved from linebackers to the line under Lou Holtz’s coordinator, Monte Kiffin. Many talk about the staff Bret Bielema has assembled now for the Razorbacks, and they are good, no doubt. But it didn’t get much better than Jimmy Johnson and Monte Kiffin in the 1970s. Still doesn’t.

Throw in linebackers Larry Jackson out of Hot Springs and William Hampton from Forrest City, and the 1975 recruiting haul for defensive studs was huge. Those guys also played as true freshmen. All five were on the field at some point in 1975 when Arkansas derailed a good Georgia team 31-10 in the Cotton Bowl to finish a 10-2 season. They were cogs in that great 1977 team that swamped No. 2-ranked Oklahoma 31-6 in the Orange Bowl two years later.

Point is, when they played, Arkansas could hold its own with the best in any conference.

As you surely note, that whole crew was Arkansas-bred, and they were part of 35 wins in four years, 20 in their last two.

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