Arkansas Football: Inside Look at Incoming Freshman Philon and Winston


Fayetteville, Ark. – When talking about either defensive end JaMichael Winston or defensive tackle Darius Philon it is difficult to not think of the dynamic duo as a team. Easy to do so as both recruits played their prep careers together at Vigor High School in Prichard, Ala., but the standout freshmen took completely different paths to Arkansas.

Sporting a stingy defense throughout the 2011 high school football season behind the efforts of their starting defensive ends, Vigor High School only allowed an average of 8.5 points per game. Their efforts took the Wolves to the 5-A State Championship game before losing a heartbreaker to Hartselle 13-3.

Playing through the pain of a meniscus tear in playoff games against Hueytown and Hartselle Philon eventually would have surgery on his meniscus to repair damage that occurred on the field. Throughout the aggravating injury and the upsetting state final loss Philon was always referred to in write-ups and state news broadcast as a Tide commitment. That was true until National Signing Day when Alabama head coach Nick Saban pulled a last minute switch on the 3-stat recruit.

Reports are mixed about the length of time Saban gave Philon before “Nick-Rolling” him leading up to signing day. Fox Ten Sports in Alabama reported that he was given a couple of weeks notice while other reports state that it was hours leading up to signing time. That same reporter also called JaMichael Winston JaMichael Finley.

The events leading up to the discrepancy in events centered upon Saban asking Philon to gray-shirt before coming to Alabama.

For months Philon had been a verbal commitment to Alabama’s 2012 class even promoting the Tide in recruiting efforts when possible. In a gut wrenching decision (see video here) in front of a packed Vigor High School stadium on National Signing Day the long time verbal commit still donned an Alabama hat letting his fans know he was going to Tuscaloosa despite the obvious internal conflict over the decision.

Sitting on the same dais during Philon’s announcement was Arkansas signee JaMichael Winston.

Winston was highly recruited and endured a full-court press leading up to the first Wednesday in February by Clemson and Michigan State for his signature.

The Razorbacks gained Winston’s verbal pledge in November of 2011 and held on to the 3-star recruit through the blitzing advances of other schools.

Winston and Philon were bookend defensive ends for the Wolves during their high school days. Winston’s size, 6’6”, 230 pounds, should keep him at defensive end. Philon’s smaller stature (6’1”, 282 pounds) but heavier frame could place him at defensive tackle or defensive end on the college level.

Both Winston and Philon come to Arkansas after stellar and highly decorated senior seasons. Both were selected to play in the Alabama/Mississippi All-Star game. Philon earned his way by posting 66 tackles with 20 coming for a loss with 11 sacks. On his way to earning First-Team All-State Winston recorded 103 tackles including 29 for a loss with 17 sacks.

Inside the Numbers

Vigor won the 5-A Alabama state championship in 2008.

In a small twist of irony Philon attended the Arkansas vs. Alabama game on September 25, in Tuscaloosa but never stepped foot on Arkansas’ campus before signing with the Hogs.

Winston missed his junior season with a shoulder injury.

Philon was offered scholarships by Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky, Memphis, and Mississippi State among others.

Winston was offered scholarships by Clemson, Michigan State, Kentucky, Louisville, Mississippi State, South Florida, and Syracuse among others.

Rivals rated Philon as the No. 13 overall top prospect in Alabama and ranked Winston as the No. 21 overall recruit.

Winston led his Alabama squad in tackles during the Alabama/Mississippi All-Star game.

Arkansas Razorback Recruits 2012

OG Cordale Boyd, 3-star, 6’3”, 290 pounds, Memphis, TN

OG Jeremy Ward, 3-star, 6’4”, 290 pounds, Pottsville, AR

WR D’Arthur Cowan, 3-star, 6’1’, 175 pounds, Olive Branch, MS

WR Keon Hatcher, 4-star, 6’1”, 195 pounds, Owasso, OK

WR Eric Hawkins, 3-star, 6’5”, 220, Longview, TX

WR #Demetrius Wilson, 3-star, 6’2”, 170 pounds, Glendale, AZ

WR McKale McKay, 3-star, 6’6”, 192 pounds, Louisville, KY

RB Nathan Holmes, 3-star, 6’1”, 180 pounds, Port Arthur, TX

RB Donovan Roberts, 3-star, 6’0”, 200 pounds, Norman, OK

RB Jonathan Williams, 4-star, 5’11”, 205 pounds, Allen, TX

TE/DE Jeremy Sprinkle, 3-star, 6’6”, 215, White Hall, AR

TE *Demetrius Dean, 3-star, 6’3”, 250 pounds, Fayetteville, AR

CB Ray Buchanan Jr., 3-star, 5’10”, 170 pounds, Suwanee, GA

CB Jared Collins, 3-star, 5’11”, 170 pounds, Tulsa, OK

FS Will Hines, 3-star, 6’1”, 175 pounds, Waco, TX

SS Defonta Lowe, 3-star, 6’2”, 180 pounds, Bearden, AR

LB A.J. Turner, 3-star, 6’3”, 200 pounds, Lepanto, AR

LB Vin Ascolese, 3-star, 6’2”, 215 pounds, New Bergen, NJ

LB Otha Peters, 4-star, 6’1”, 220 pounds, Covington, LA

DE Brandon Lewis, 3-star, 6’5”, 220 pounds, Memphis, TN

DE JaMichael Winston, 3-star, 6’6”, 230 pounds, Prichard, AL

DE Darius Philon, 3-star, 6’1”, 282 pounds, Prichard, AL

DE Deatrich Wise Jr., 4-star, 6’5”, 220 pounds, Carrolton, TX

DE Taiwan Johnson, 3-star, 6’3”, 240 pounds, Manvel, TX

DE *#Austin Flynn, 3-star, 6’4”, 250 pounds, Los Angeles Harbor CC

*Early enrollee at University of Arkansas

# Denotes junior college player

Position by position breakdown of Arkansas 2012 verbal commitments:

Offensive line: two

Running backs: three

Wide receivers: five

Quarterbacks: none

Tight ends: two

Defensive line: six

Linebackers: three

Safeties: two

Cornerbacks: two

Kickers: none