Dyer a threat on both sides of ball
Michael Dyer, like most star running backs, has a special swagger. He'll strut around the field like he owns it.
Last weekend, Michael Dyer was spotted on the field carrying a homemade sign from Auburn fans. That fueled speculation that the Tiger were the leaders. Not so fast maintains Dyer, who is also considering Tennessee, Notre Dame, Florida and Mississippi.
Oh, don't forget Arkansas, which is squarely in the mix. If the in-state university located in the Ozarks were to get Dyer's pledge, the Hog Nation would go, well, hog wild.
The Razorbacks have made Dyer a priority. Landing him would please the locals, but more importantly, it would send a message to in-state recruits that Dyer is serious about restoring the Razorbacks to an elite program.
"I'll schedule a few visits during the season," said Dyer, who maintains a 3.4 grade-point average. "I want to see these teams play good teams. I need to get a feel of what they're doing on the field."
When supporters and alumni of schools approach Dyer, they even use gimmicks to stand out.
Recently Auburn fans flashed a creative homemade sign: "We're in 'Dyer' need of you."
"That was a good one," he chuckled. "It took a lot of guts to come up with that one."
-- Chris Lawlor
And for the most part, he does.
Dyer, a senior at Little Rock Christian Academy in Arkansas, inspired the hype machine two years ago when he was named the EA Sports National Sophomore of the Year. During that eye-opening season, he rushed for a state sophomore-record 2,710 yards (9.7 yards per carry) and scored 31 touchdowns as LRCA advanced to the Class 5A final.
He went from being a relative unknown on the national recruiting scene to a major player on everyone's watch list. He's been compared to a young Barry Sanders, who possessed a low center of gravity, balance and field vision.
Yet if you ask LRCA head coach Justin Kramer, a glimpse of Dyer's success was on display in seventh grade.
"He's always been excessively competitive," said Kramer, who coached Dyer on the grade-school level. "He refuses to lose."
His breakout season didn't just happen; it was the result of hard work with a speed training coach and religiously lifting weights. Instead of relying on innate speed, he raised it to another level.
"He has a true passion for the game, for winning," Kramer said.
Dyer, the No. 6 overall prospect in the ESPNU 150 and the top-ranked running back, set that pattern early in his career. Kramer said Dyer, who doubles as a linebacker, has ripped the ball from a running back's grip and returned it for a touchdown on three occasions.
"You needed to see it to believe it," Kramer said.
Dyer nonchalantly dismissed the superlatives.
"I do what it takes to help the team," he said.
He did just that in the season opener Sept. 2, when the LRCA Warriors were clinging to a six-point lead against Oak Grove (North Little Rock, Ark.) in the final minutes.
Dyer was a one-man offensive wrecking crew, rumbling for 187 yards and four TDs, but the Warriors were on the verge of a loss. Dyer gave the Warriors a 28-22 lead with 7½ minutes left, carrying five times for 36 yards on the drive.
The precarious lead seemed in doubt.
That's when Dyer, a 5-foot-9, 215-pound ball of energy, went deep to record a game-saving tackle late in the fourth.
"Michael loves to play linebacker and would love more reps, but we have to limit them," Kramer said. "But that play typified him as a player."
Oak Grove's Shaquille Spearman took a screen pass down the far sidelines and broke free. It looked like Spearman was destined for the end zone.
Making The Grade
Michael Dyer, a five-star recruit, is the No. 1 running back and the No. 6 overall prospect in the ESPNU 150. Here's part of his Scouts Inc. evaluation:
"If you're looking for a strong, downhill runner to carry the load at the next level -- Dyer is your guy. He shows the vision, jump-cut skill and lateral quicks to slide through the small creases. Dyer will surprise you with his suddenness and burst, at times, through the hole. Dyer is physically superior to his competition on film, but Dyer still projects very well at the next level as a featured back."
"The kid [Spearman] broke two tackles," he said. "I knew I better catch him. I just kicked into high gear."
Dyer motored from the opposite sidelines, dropping him on the Warriors' 24 after a 41-yard gain. Later in the drive, he added his fifth tackle, preventing the tying score.
The only thing preventing Dyer and LRCA from more success in 2008 was a series of ankle injuries.
"Last year I didn't have my legs; I was injured [left ankle] in the fifth game and then I sprained my right one two games later," Dyer said. "I had surgery following the season."
LRCA, after a 7-1 start, limped to the finish losing its final three games, including a 24-20 setback in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs to Siloam Springs. Hobbled for more than half the schedule, Dyer managed 1,984 rushing yards, with 20 scores and was tabbed Gatorade's state player of the year.
He is finally pain-free and looking to add to his career rushing totals (5,782 yards, 58 TDs in 36 games) Friday when the Warriors visit Morrilton. LRCA closes the regular season with seven straight in the ultra-competitive Class 5A Southwest against the likes of Magnolia, Fairview (Camden), Robinson (Little Rock) and Pulaski Academy (Little Rock).
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball and boys' and girls' basketball. He also worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, for which he ran the Gatorade National Player of the Year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.
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States Of Recruiting
States Of Recruiting Index
• Alabama: Loaded with defenders
• Arkansas: Dyer the big prize
• Arizona/New Mexico: Carrington shines
• California offense: James, Bray lead the way
• California defense: Look out for Powell, Uko
• Colorado: Top talent heading out of state
• Florida offense: Dunkley leads deep WR group
• Florida defense: Plenty of premier prospects
• Georgia: Plenty of prospects to choose from
• Hawaii/Alaska: Fehoko is the island king
• Iowa: Derby gaining national attention
• Illinois: Prater leads Prairie State prospects
• Indiana: OSU-bound back Smith leads the way
• Kansas: QB Bell is among the elite
• Kentucky: Football takes a backseat to hoops
• Louisiana: Top talent staying close to home
• Maryland/D.C.: WR Coxson leading the way
• Michigan: Gholston, Baker lead the way
• Minnesota: Highlighted by No. 1 OT Henderson
• Mississippi: Don't miss out on Dickson or Eulls
• Missouri: Demien, Lucas leading the way
• New England: Top talent leaving the area
(Conn., Del., Mass., Maine, Vt., N.H., R.I.)
• North Carolina: Wolfpack taking charge
• Nevada: USC hits jackpot by landing Grimble
• N.Y./N.J.: Penn State cherry-picking Big Apple
• South Carolina: America's emerging hotbed
• Pacific Northwest: Trend of edge rushers
(Oregon, Idaho, Montana, N.D., S.D., Wyoming)
• Tennessee: WR Malone continues tradition
• Texas offense: WR White among top threats
• Texas defense: No. 1 Jeffcoat leads the way
• Pennsylvania: Royer, JoePa leading the way
• Ohio: Buckeyes dominance continues
• Oklahoma: Don't sleep on the Sooner State
• Nebraska: Rodriguez is lone ESPNU 150 player
• Utah: Quickly becoming a must-stop
• Virginia/West Virginia: Rich on skill talent
• Washington: Heap of talent on both sides
• Wisconsin: Recruiters getting a kick out of it