FAYETTEVILLE — Austin Allen, Alex Brignoni and Brooks Ellis helped Fayetteville climb to the top of Arkansas high school football. Wednesday, the three longtime friends and Bulldog teammates officially began their quest to help Arkansas climb to the top of the Southeastern Conference.

Allen, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound quarterback, Ellis, a 6-3, 220-pound linebacker, and Brignoni, a 6-1, 195-pound free safety, were the backbone of Fayetteville’s Class 7A state championship teams the past two seasons. Now, they’ll continue on as teammates as each signed National Letters of Intent with Arkansas.

“I’ve been best friends with Alex and Brooks since I was a little kid,” Allen said. “Not too many people get the chance to continue their education and play football with their two best friends beyond high school. It’s really like a dream come true.”

The Fayetteville trio committed to Arkansas together on May 21, 2012, and held firm to those commitments as the Razorbacks suffered through a 4-8 season last fall and uncertainty in the future of the program. While all three said the hiring of coach Bret Bielema and his staff was a positive, the chance to stay home was the biggest draw for each Purple’Dog.

“My family has been around here for a long time, my grandfather (David Lashley) played for Arkansas and I’ve pretty much wanted to be a Hog my entire life,” Ellis said. “So I’m blessed to be able to sign the paper today.

“It’s awesome to be able to keep this process going with my friends for four more years and I’m just so blessed to have the support of so many special family and friends.”

Brignoni, the Class 7A state record holder for career interceptions, could project as a safety or even outside linebacker at Arkansas.

“I’ve met all the coaches up there and they’re all really awesome coaches, they’ve got great personalities and they really know the game of football,” Brignoni said. “They’re just excited for me to get up there and I’m excited to get up there with them.

“Right now they’ll start me at out at safety and we’ll go from there.”

Allen will join back up with his brother, Brandon Allen, who is a redshirt sophomore quarterback with the Razorbacks. The two were teammates at Fayetteville in 2010 and helped the Bulldogs to a state runner-up finish that year.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Austin Allen said. “My sophomore year in high school, I learned so much from him and I’m looking forward to getting up there and competing and I’m ready to learn how to be an SEC quarterback.”

Allen passed for 7,813 yards and 77 touchdowns at Fayetteville. Rated as a four-star prospect by Scout.com, he will join his brother, along with Brandon Mitchell, and fellow incoming freshman Damon Mitchell as Arkansas’ scholarship quarterbacks next fall.

“I think Austin has a chance to be a big star over at the U of A and it’s going to be interesting to watch Brandon and Austin compete this thing out,” Fayetteville coach Daryl Patton said. “I know there’s Brandon Mitchell and a lot of good quarterbacks over there right now. But Brandon and Austin Allen, those two kids are special.”

Ellis, a two-time all-state selection, had 108 tackles and 11 tackles for loss as a senior, and could make an immediate impact with the Razorbacks.

“Brooks Ellis I think is a freak,” Patton said. “He’s 230 pounds right now and he doesn’t look it. But he’s going to put on more weight and his first step is just phenomenal. He can go from zero to 60 in a drop of a hat and he’s just got an uncanny knack to not get blocked. So I really think he’s got a chance to play right away.”

Brignoni finished with 18 career interceptions and 102 total tackles in 2012. His 10 interceptions as a junior is also a school single-season record.

“With Alex Brignoni, you’ve got a ball hawk,” Patton said. “He’s got a great nose for the football and he was our free safety here and was the quarterback of our secondary. He had a great high school career and I really look for him to be moved down to that strong safety, outside linebacker position. And for a kid with his skills he could look at some playing time, maybe not as a freshman but pretty soon.”