FAYETTEVILLE — John Ridgeway came to Arkansas from Illinois State and brings outstanding size to the defensive line.
Ridgeway, 6-foot-6, 320-pounds, is one of the players Jermial Ashley is counting on to make Arkansas’ defensive line a team strength. When he entered the transfer portal he had several national powers try to land him. Following Tuesday’s practice he talked about how he ended up at Arkansas.
“I feel like it was a great opportunity to play in the SEC,” Ridgeway said. “The best talent at the next level comes out of the SEC, so I figured why not go against them. It was also an opportunity for me to get looked at going at a higher level. Also, being able to play more than one position so I can be more versatile. When I get to the next level, hopefully they can see me instead of just a nose guard, more as a nose tackle. I can play on special teams, as well.”
Ridgeway couldn’t take an official visit to Arkansas since the NCAA wasn’t allowing campus visits at that time. Ridgeway talked about his visit on his own and even joked on Tuesday he chose the Hogs over the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.
“For me, it was in a dead period,” Ridgeway said. “So, we couldn’t go on official visits or anything like that. I kind of just had my top three teams I was looking at, and I figured Arkansas was only an eight-hour drive so why not take it. So, I took the drive, and I loved the atmosphere. I looked around campus. I took my girlfriend and the dog. Let him see everything. The parents loved it. I loved it. So, I was like why not? I want to go to Arkansas.”
Ridgeway has been seen working with the first- and second-team units. However he isn’t concerned with that at this time.
“I trust the coaches,” Ridgeway said. “I know they’re going to put me in the best position to succeed. So, it that means running with the twos, ones, threes, whatever it is, I know I’m going to get better wherever they put me. Also, I learn off a lot of the guys here. They know the defense better than me. They’ve been around it. So, being able to learn off of them and sit back and watch them do the plays and see how I can critique myself to do the same movements they’re doing will benefit me in the same position. It has helped me a lot being able to rotate in with the ones, twos and threes and being able to learn from the upperclassmen.”
Ridgeway started 29 of the 30 games he played at Illinois State. In three years, Ridgeway had 102 tackles, eight for loss, a sack, forced a fumble and recovered one, an interception, three quarterback hurries and four pass breakups. What has been the biggest difference there and at Arkansas?
“The speed of the game for sure.” Ridgeway said. “The offensive linemen are a lot bigger and a lot more agile, faster. I was being able to technique back at my old school. I was able to get by with it. Here, I have to battle every snap. I’ve got to earn it. It’s not going to be given to me like the last school I played at. It definitely helped me get better every day. I’m still learning and I just can’t wait to get better every day when I step on the field.”
Coming out of Bloomington (Ill.) High School, Ridgeway wasn’t highly recruited, but blamed himself for that.
“Coming out of high school I just slacked,” Ridgeway said. “I didn’t really pay attention in class, so that kind of took away my chances to get recruited. ISU took a leap of faith with me an I ended up making my eligibility to go play college football. Went there, played there pretty well. When I did get in the portal it kind of felt like I was a five-star recruit you know. I just had my phone blowing up every second of the day. Coaches calling me at 10:30, 11 o’clock at night and I was like, ‘Wow.’ It was definitely nice and fun to experience it and everything. I just wish I’d experienced it at a younger age. I liked it a lot honestly. It was fun for sure.”
Ridgeway and the Razorbacks will practice on Wednesday.