Friday, February 03, 2012

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits’ Carpenter goes Division I

Leader sports editor

It doesn’t seem like it could be true, but it is. No Lonoke Jackrabbit has signed a Division I college football scholarship since 1995, that is until Wednesday’s national signing day. That’s when Lonoke offensive lineman Justin Carpenter signed with the University of Central Arkansas. Carpenter ran a gauntlet of camps in an attempt to get college coaches to take notice and the hard work paid off late. The offer from UCA didn’t come through until about two weeks ago. He had received offers from Division II schools Henderson State in Arkadelphia and Arkansas Tech in Russellville.

After the visit to the Conway campus and the subsequent scholarship offer, Carpenter felt it was an easy decision.

“The facilities, the coaches, the environment, the fact that it’s DI, it just seemed like the obvious choice,” Carpenter said.

Like most freshmen lineman, especially DI freshmen linemen, Carpenter probably won’t see a lot of playing time his first year, but at 6 feet, 4 inches, 290 pounds, he has the physical attributes of a top-notch lineman and shows a lot of promise for the future. Some the evidence for Carpenter’s potential is already showing. He improved his bench press by over 60 pounds over the summer, and drastically increased the weight in his other lifts.

UCA Bears’ coach Clint Conque has asked Carpenter to try something he’s never done.

“They’re wanting me to play guard or center,” Carpenter said. “Coach asked me to work on snapping the ball. I’ve never done that before, but I’m going to work hard on it.”

Carpenter was a three-year starter for the Jackrabbits. He was named to the 2011 Super Sonic team and was Farm Bureau Player of the Year finalist his senior season.

He joins a signing class of 23, but is one of only two offensive linemen signed by UCA this season. Lance Kloker, 6-5, 275 of Owasso, OK, is the other lineman.