FAYETTEVILLE — He’s listed from Prattville, Ala. and a graduate transfer from Duke University.
But now that’s he’s at the University of Arkansas place-kicking for the Razorbacks, A.J. Reed figures Fort Smith becomes sort of his new hometown.
Reed, senior tight end Blake Kern of Lamar and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Beaux Limmer of Lamar all met with media on Zoom Monday night following the Razorbacks’ closed practice.
Reed said that new Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman, the former Georgia offensive line coach, bringing special teams coordinator Scott Fountain with him from Georgia factored in his decision to choose Arkansas over Nebraska, Georgia Tech and Florida International University after submitting his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Roots to his new hometown helped, too.
““Well, actually my family is from Fort Smith, Arkansas,” Reed said. “So I grew up cheering for the Hogs. It was always a dream of mine and that played a big part in it.”
A dream afar apparently. Fort Smith doesn’t appear on his dwellings resume.
“I never personally lived there,” Reed said. “My mom and dad are both from Fort Smith. My mom went to the University of Arkansas and my dad went to the Air Force Academy. I was a military brat growing up. I’ve lived like 10 different places. Most of my extended family is here, so this is where I call home.”
He not only knew Arkansas before playing for Arkansas, he knew Fountain, too.
“I’ve known Coach Fountain since I was recruited in high school and he was at Auburn,” Reed said. “I knew how good of a coach he was. Once I finally – I finally got on the phone with Coach Pittman, I found out how awesome of a guy he was and his plans for this program, I was sold and I haven’t looked back since.”
Reed marvels having special teams coach Fountain strictly coaching special teams and able to work with kickers, punters, snappers and holders an entire practice rather than doubling as a position coach.
“That was a big reason why I came here, was to play for someone who’s as great of a coach as Coach Fountain,” Reed said. “He is 100 percent dedicated to special teams, which is special. That’s not the norm in college football. So having him around us at all times really keeps us locked in. He’s such a detail-oriented guy that it rubs off on all of us. I think we’ve gotten a lot better just being with him every day on the field and in the meeting room.”
Kicking what would be a career long 52-yard field goal in an Arkansas scrimmage, Reed kicked an official career long 51-yarder last season, his by far most successful one at Duke succeeding on 15 of 18 field goals and 34 of 34 PAT’s.
It also marked his first healthy season in his four Duke years
“I had a really bad, nagging groin injury for a while when I first started out,” Reed said. “It actually caused me to miss my sophomore season completely. So I’ve just gone through a really strenuous rehab process. After that, really hitting the weight room hard helped me to make that improvement. I just feel like I’ve gotten better since.”
While both deemed first-team, Limmer and sophomore Ricky Stromberg have interchanged throughout preseason at center and guard.
“I’m just gonna play anywhere they want me to,” Limmer said Monday night. “I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but wherever I play I’m gonna do that to the best of my ability.”
Whether it’s at center or guard, it will be alongside Stromberg who lettered as a true freshman starting guard in 2019 while Limmer and current starting left guard Brady Latham of Jenks, Okla. redshirted as freshmen.
“ I really like double-teaming with Ricky because he’ll come off and put a shoulder on him,” Limmer said. “We get some pretty good double teams in there.”
Pittman and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles both say Limmer, Stromberg and Latham play with a “mean streak.”
“Yeah, Brady Latham, he’s got a mean streak for sure,” Limmer said. “He likes to come off the ball and hit people really hard and also Ricky. All three of us are really good friends. We all came in together so we kind of bonded especially the first summer we were here.”
The Razorbacks continue their final preseason practice week and will get a game-plan head start Friday against the scout teams prepping for the Sept. 26 season opener against Georgia.