Central Arkansas adds four to roster

University of Central Arkansas coach Nathan Brown didn’t have many gaps to fill with his National Signing Day class.

With eight players on foot during last fall’s Senior Day ceremony, the Bears have spent the offseason deepening the 2022 c0-ASUN championship team rather than plugging holes.

“We needed some guys effective immediately, as well as some guys who are going to be development players over the next four or five years,” Brown said. “We didn’t graduate many players. … This was a group that won many football games, [so] We didn’t have to replace a ton of people. We have a lot to come back to for the 2023 version of the Bears.”

Brown on Wednesday announced the final four members of the UCA’s 26-man recruiting class for 2023.

This group included state products Malachi Henry of Van Buren and Tyrique Newman of McGehee, Tre Guerra of Keller (Texas) High School, and Braden Stafford of Hatton (Ala.) High School.

Brown and UCA have been recruiting Henry since last summer, initially as a defender but more recently as a wideout.

“He was a guy we offered early on as a defenseman from summer camp, but we knew his skills as a wide receiver were just as good and just as talented. So he’s got a lot of skills,” Brown said.

Henry totaled 821 yards and 12 touchdowns that fall while playing for his father Moe Henry at Van Buren. He is the pointers’ all-time leader in receptions (166), yards (2,834), and touchdowns (35).

Newman rushed for 3,423 yards and 31 touchdowns for the Owls. He was a 2022 All-State selection as McGehee went 8-3 and advanced to the Class 4A quarterfinals.

“Small-town ball has served us well in this state,” Brown said. “Tyrique Newman, the next name that comes out of my mouth in a similar way is Kylin James. Kylin James, 1,300+ all-purpose yards in our program this year, is just as good a player in the nation, getting the ball in his hands and making plays. Well, Tyrique Newman is something of a similar build as a player and obviously comes from a similar background. … When he has football in his hands, good things happen.

Henry and Newman’s additions bring UCA to eight signers from Arkansas high schools.

Guerra is the only quarterback in the class. He had 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns during his career with Keller. Guerra chose UCA over offers from Abilene Christian, North Alabama, Austin Peay and Stephen F. Austin, among others.

“Trey just pisses me off to talk about him,” Brown said. “You want to talk about winning recruitment battles, if you’re going to develop the culture and the program the way we’ve done, you have to win recruitment battles. … Almost every school in our conference really followed him with heavy load and obviously, coaches [Ken] Colums, coach [Bayley] Novak and our staff as a whole did a great job recruiting him and his family.”

Stafford was another recruiting victory for the Bears, as he selected them over offers from Southeast Missouri and Austin Peay.

“He can play four of the five positions on the offensive line,” Brown said. “His athletic ability feeds into other sports he plays. …When you bring in an offensive lineman, think big, strong, powerful, all those things. Well, he’s all of that, but he’s also got great feet, he’s got athletic ability, he can do all the things you’re looking for.”

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