By Otis Kirk

Helena-West Helena Central Class of 2020 running back John Oliver is working hoping to see his recruiting explode in the upcoming months.

Oliver, 6-2, 248, helped the Cougars to a 9-3 record in 2018. He carried 102 times for 452 yards and eight touchdowns while also catching three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown. Oliver reflected back on his junior season.

“It went well by the grace of God,” Oliver said. “I was second in yards and touchdowns on my team and top 10 in the conference.”

The last game of the season was in the second round of the state playoffs against Dumas. Central lost 34-30, but in that game Oliver carried 12 times for 54 yards and a 15-yard touchdown reception. In that game, Oliver had a late play that he would like to have back, but it came with him trying to make a big play for his team.

“I had one of the best runs of my life with open field then my lead blocker fell in front of me,” Oliver said. “I slipped trying to be clutch to get out the way and fumbled and lost the game.”

Among the biggest wins for the Cougars in 2018 was on Nov. 1 when they went to Warren and beat the Lumberjacks 60-36. They also beat Pea Ridge 8-0 in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs. 

Oliver talked about his strengths and what he needs to work on as far as his talents on the field.

“I have great vision to be a big running back with good hands,” Oliver said. “I can make a defender miss me and run them over. I have good moves to be big and run a 4.82.

“I need to get better period to be a better running back and get stronger and faster.”

If Oliver can have a great spring and summer at some camps and combines then combine that with a strong senior season he is likely to draw plenty of college attention.

“I like D1 colleges,” Oliver said. “I’m a fan of Ohio State. That’s where I’m from, but would play for any school who offers me on a full ride. I’m with the NCSA (Next College Student Athlete) program so different types of colleges have seen my tape like LSU and Auburn and D2 and D3 schools. I have no offers yet.”

While he is originally from Ohio and didn’t grow up following the Razorbacks as closely as many prospects inside the state he is impressed with Chad Morris and his staff.

“Chad Morris and the staff is good,” Oliver said. “Yes I really wanna do the visits and build a relationship with them and others. I’m just gifted and will get better. I wanna go D1. I’m taking the ACT in February and grades going good. My last GPA was a 2.5, but I am working to get it higher.”

Oliver plans to go to work on improving his game in hopes of seeing the recruiting take off in 2019. He has set some goals for himself in coming months.

“Getting better and to cut up and drop some weight to get faster,” Oliver said. “I want to be like a (Penn State and New York Giants) Saquon Barkley, but better. My goal is to hit 225-230 pounds.”

While it’s early, Oliver lists a top five of Ohio State, LSU, UCLA, Arkansas and USC.