FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas added 15 transfers at midterm and each will be given a long look this spring to see how much impact they can have on the football team.
Of the 15, 10 are scholarship athletes with the other five being preferred walk-ons. The Hogs added a good mixture of offensive, defensive and special teams help from the portal and junior colleges.
Quarterback Jacolby Criswell, 6-1, 205, is a former prep standout at Morrilton High School who went to North Carolina out of high school. Don’t let his not playing much at North Carolina fool you he’s a very good quarterback. At North Carolina, he was stuck behind Drake Maye who is regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Criswell and true freshman Malachi Singleton, 6-1, 225, have upgraded the back-up quarterback room as much as any position on the football team giving Dan Enos some good talent to work with.
After losing Jadon Haselwood and Matt Landers to the NFL Draft and then Ketron Jackson to the transfer portal Arkansas needed wide receivers. Kenny Guiton got them. Guiton added four wide receivers, including three on scholarship, who will be expected to make a big impact this spring and fall.
The new receivers are Texas A&M-Commerce’s Andrew Armstrong, 6-5, 198, Hillsdale College’s Isaac TeSlaa, 6-4, 210, Bowling Green’s Tyrone Broden, 6-7, 210, and Memphis’ Marlon Crockett, 6-4., 210. Crockett is a former prep standout at Searcy and Cabot who is now a preferred walk-on at Arkansas.
Armstrong burst onto the scene in 2022 when he caught 62 passes for 1,020 yards and 13 touchdowns. In 2022, TeSlaa had 68 receptions for 1,325 yards and 13 touchdowns. Broden also had a productive 2022 season. He caught 32 passes for 506 yards and seven touchdowns. Crockett battled an ACL injury at Memphis, but is fully healthy now. Crockett was outstanding in high school and helped Searcy to a state championship his junior season.
Cody Kennedy has some new help on the offensive line. Florida offensive guard Joshua Braun, 6-6, 342, was committed to Sam Pittman and Georgia before he left to become head coach of the Razorbacks. But now Braun, Pittman and Kennedy will reunite at Arkansas. Braun will be one of the candidates to replace Beaux Limmer at right guard after he moved to center. Maryland’s Tommy Varhall, 6-8, 315, is a preferred walk-on addition.
On the defensive line, Deke Adams has added two nice additions thus far. He’s still looking for interior help in the April window when the transfer portal reopens April 15-30.
Missouri’s Trajan Jeffcoat, 6-4, 269, and Pitt’s John Morgan III, both bring outstanding credentials to the defensive end, edge spots at Arkansas. At Pitt, Morgan had 72 tackles, 49 solo, 23 for loss, two pass breakups, 14.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in his career.
At Missouri, Jeffcoat was first-team All-SEC at one time. He had 84 tackles, 60 unassisted, 10.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one recovery in his time with the Tigers. Jeffcoat and Morgan will both join players such as Zach Williams, Jashaud Strewart and Landon Jackson to give Arkansas some talented ends for Adams.
Arkansas has added one linebacker to this point. USF’s Antonio Grier, 6-1, 223, had a very good career before entering the transfer portal. At USF, Grier had 228 tackles, 133 solo, one pass breakup, 10 sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions with one returned for a touchdown.
Grier will compete with Jordan Crook, Mani Powell, Kaden Henley and the freshmen to see who starts alongside Chris “Pooh” Paul. Arkansas also could still add one more linebacker from the transfer portal.
The Hogs added a pair of defensive backs from the portal with both from Baylor. Cornerback Lorando Johnson, 6-0, 193, gives the Hogs some depth to go with Quincey McAdoo, Dwight McGlothern and others. At Baylor, Johnson had 20 tackles, 15 solo, five pass breakups and one forced fumble. He was a sophomore for the Bears this past season.
Safety Alfahiym Walcott, 6-2, 220, could be outstanding. He brings size, experience and talent to the back end of the secondary for Marcus Woodson and Deron Wilson. At Baylor, Walcott finished with 115 tackles, 71 solo, 10 pass breakups, two sacks, three forced fumbles and four interceptions with one returned for a touchdown against Ole Miss in the 2021 Sugar Bowl. Walcott is one to watch for postseason honors in the SEC as he possesses that much talent.
Scott Fountain also has added some help via the preferred walk-on route. He has Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College punter Owen Lawson, 6-1, 180, Northern Colorado kicker-punter Devin Bale, 6-2, 210, and Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College long snapper Ashton Ngo, 6-0, 225.
Lawson is expected to challenge for the punting position. On 67 punts this past fall for the Red Ravens, Lawson averaged 40.5 yards per punt. He had 24 killed inside the 20, eight fair caught and eight touchbacks.
Bale is a talented punter, but is also a kickoff specialist. He had 51 punts at Northern Colorado averaging 41.08 yards. He had four touchbacks, 25 fair caught and 14 inside the 20. He was 3 of 7 on field goals and missed one point after touchdown in 15 attempts. His longest punt at Northern Colorado was 84 yards.
Ngo will battle with Eli Stein and possibly others at long snapper.
Arkansas has nine scholarships remaining for the portal in April. Pittman talked about where those nine scholarships may be directed.
“Well, as you know, there’s 85 scholarships and we’re at 76,” Pittman said. “Once you get to 76, if you look at it as an NFL pattern, they’re at 53 and they seem to be able to get pretty good players out there. So, I think right now would be the best players available. I’m talking about scholarship-wise, in other words, I’m not saying necessarily the necessity at the position; I’m talking about the number of people at the position.
“We could use another bigger guy inside on the d-line. We did, because of numbers. Linebacker, might need another one because of numbers. Secondary, we’ve signed eight to this point and we certainly would entertain others there. I’d like to look at another guy that can snap the ball, offensively. We’ve got to find maybe one more. In losing guys last year, a bunch of those guys could snap. Obviously Ricky (Stromberg) played center, but Jones could snap. And so, we’ve got to continue to look at that on offense. I think we’ve probably got enough running backs. Wide receivers, we may be full there as well, but we’d certainly take a dynamic one. Tight end, we might need an older tight end. I don’t know number-wise that we do. And then quarterbacks, we’ve got enough quarterbacks at this point. So I think that’s where we’d go. I don’t know if that answered your question, but that’s where we’d look at.”