FAYETTEVILLE — On Wednesday, Arkansas added four recruits from the transfer portal.
Sam Pittman talked about the class afterward. Also, he said the new rule that allows portal recruits to visit Jan. 4-8 will be something the Razorbacks definitely take advantage of.
“The 4th through the 8th, I’m going to tell you it should and it needs to be anywhere from six to 12 kids on campus,” Pittman said. “Now, we have to be position-specific and all those type things, but we have some scholarships available and certainly we feel like we can change the depth and the team in that period. It’s obviously the first time they’ve allowed it to happen. But we are excited about that period as well.”
The four transfers who signed are North Carolina quarterback Jacolby Criswell, 6-1, 205, Texas A&M-Commerce wide receiver Andrew Armstrong, 6-5, 189, Florida offensive guard Joshua Braun, 6-6, 335, and Pitt defensive end John Morgan III, 6-2, 265. Pittman talked about that group.
“Armstrong was a guy we saw out of Texas A&M Commerce,” Pittman said. “Had a lot of catches. Big, long guy. Can run. We had him on campus a couple weeks ago. Really a super kid. We need help there at wide receiver. We need some older help there as well even though I’m very excited about our young guys on our team. So, we decided to take him and were obviously excited to get him. Josh Braun is a guy I recruited at Georgia. We had him committed there at Georgia. I left and came to Arkansas. About the next day I think he decommitted from Georgia and went to Florida. He’s played a lot of ball. I think he played over 800 snaps there at Florida. I knew him, his family and I knew what we were getting there pretty much from all the recruiting out of high school. So, we signed him.
“Jacolby Criswell, I didn’t get him the first time. Wanted him. Went over there to Morrilton and I was too late. Had five or six days, one time to go over there. North Carolina had done a good job, and I couldn’t out-recruit them in a day or a week. But we got him this time, so we’re really glad about that. John Morgan is a pass-rusher at defensive end. I really like his tape. I think he’s a dynamic player. He came in last weekend. Basically, he said he wanted to be a Hog today, so obviously we got the papers sent out to him and those things.”
Coming out of Morrilton, Criswell was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Arkansas. Pittman didn’t have much time to recruit him, but Criswell talked about how while he was loyal to North Carolina he and the new Arkansas coach parted on good terms at that time.
“He’s a great kid,” Pittman said. “Great parents, great folks that are taking care of him and have. It’s really cool because he’s so mature, he loves Arkansas. When he got in the portal, he immediately contacted us and we were ecstatic about him. Obviously we knew we needed to upgrade there at quarterback. He wants to play, obviously, he knows he’s going to have to compete here and things of that nature, but we needed him. Just really happy that he decided to come back.”
At North Carolina, Criswell didn’t get many opportunities to play. He completed 18 of 31 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He also rushed 20 times for 133 yards and a touchdown. This season, Armstrong caught 62 passes for 1,020 yards and 13 touchdowns. At Pitt this season, Morgan had 19 tackles, 13 solo, five for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles. In his career, Morgan had 14.5 sacks for the Panthers.
With the upcoming four-day window for portal visitors, Pittman talked about some positions where the Hogs might be looking for help.
“I think we need to get another (offensive) lineman,” Pittman said. “We need to get a tight end. Certainly wide receiver, we may need two or three coming out of there. Defensive backs. We’ve got to get a few. Linebackers still. I really like our linebackers. All these guys on our team I really like but we just don’t have any depth, with guys leaving and guys going to the NFL and things of that nature. But linebacker’s there. I think we’ve got the pass rusher that will help the pass rushers that we have. But I think we probably need to go inside and get another big man as well. That’s probably talking about 10 or 12 guys and we have those scholarships available.”
As far as the offensive lineman, Pittman was asked would he look for an interior or tackle?
“I think, to be honest with you, best available is probably the coach answer that I should give you,” Pittman said. “The honest answer is we need another guy that can snap the football, sort of like the NFL, where they’ll keep eight guys. But if you play guard, you better be able to play center. I don’t know that that would be Braun’s forte. It might be. I never thought of him in that respect when I recruited him. He played tennis in high school. He might be able to do it. I don’t know. I think you can’t have enough snappers, and losing Luke Jones, he was obviously a go-to guy, as well, so we may look at somebody that can play center/guard combination.”
Pittman talked about when going to the portal for the next 10 to 12 players what he weighs as far as looking for a starter, one-year player or a developmental player with around three or four years remaining.
“I think it works two ways,” Pittman said. “You’re talking to the recruit coming in and you’re talking to your own team. I think our team finally understands that we’re not going to the portal to put them on the bench. We’re going into the portal for competition and we’re going in the portal because we just don’t have enough scholarship players at their position. I think in the past it’s been, well they go in the portal and all of a sudden this guy’s gonna start. Now we have been good at signing guys that have come in and helped us in the portal. I get all that. It’s not necessarily always that way.
“And so think we have to talk to our own team first and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got four linebackers on scholarship.’ Well seven now. But we had four linebackers. You need to go get some linebackers. Do I think Pooh Paul can play and (Jordan) Crook can play, and (Mani) Powell and (Jackson) Woodard and them? Yes. But injuries happen in this game. We need players to help us on special teams and all those things. So you have to go in the portal. The first thing you have to do, you’ve got to go educate your own team. Because I think at times they look at it as ‘You’re going into the portal. I’m not good enough.’ I think that’s happened in the past. But we’re trying to educate the team to let them know, ‘Hey, we’re trying to get the best team that we can get’ and certainly you’ve got to compete. You’ve competed to this point, so you’ve got to compete and the guys coming in have to do as well.”
Arkansas will face Kansas on Wednesday, Dec. 28, at 4:30 p.m. in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.