2024 Arkansas OL Preview: 3 Heralded Transfers Must Earn Their Stripes

Addison Nichols, Eric Mateos, Arkansas football
photo credit: Instagram/Addison Nichols / Craven Whitlow

With spring ball less than a month away for Arkansas football, Best of Arkansas Sports is taking a closer look at each position as Sam Pittman enters a pivotal Year 5 leading the program.

The actual season gets underway Aug. 31 against UAPB, but the Razorbacks will begin spring drills on March 7.

Here’s our preview of perhaps the most criticized position on the team in 2023: offensive line…

Top Storyline: New Coach, New Pieces

After a disappointing season up front, how will the Razorbacks’ transfer portal additions and returning players mesh under new offensive line coach Eric Mateos?

No position was more disappointing last season than the offensive line. It was bizarre to watch the unit crumble considering Sam Pittman’s reputation and the fact it was a strength of the team the previous two years.

The good news is that Pittman recognized it was an issue and did something about it this offseason. Offensive line coach Cody Kennedy left for the same position at Mississippi State, opening the door for Pittman to bring back Eric Mateos – another protege.

He’ll be tasked with meshing some young returning pieces with a few newcomers via the transfer portal in an effort to fix arguably the worst unit on the team last season. That starts this spring.

The Razorbacks do return a second-team All-SEC selection in Joshua Braun, which is a nice piece to build around, but he’s probably the only lineman locked in as a starter at the moment. Plus, it’s unknown if he’ll remain at right guard or move over to left guard to replace Brady Latham.

Everything else is up for grabs.

Patrick Kutas was the primary starting right tackle and Andrew Chamblee split time at left tackle, but they aren’t penciled in as starters because the Razorbacks have added a couple of tackles. 

Keyshawn Blackstock was a heralded JUCO prospect, but was the backup left tackle at Michigan State before hitting the portal, while Fernando Carmona has played a lot of snaps at left tackle – albeit at San Jose State.

Can Kutas and/or Chamblee hold off the newcomers to maintain their starting jobs? Can Blackstock live up to his four-star rating? Can Carmona make the jump to the SEC?

On the interior, Amaury Wiggins is back for his second season after transferring in from a junior college and serving as the backup center last year. Will he replace Beaux Limmer or will he get beaten out by Tennessee transfer Addison Nichols?

To reiterate, Braun will start at one of the guard spots – but which one? And who will fill the other one? Could Ty’Kieast Crawford finally be a full-time starter as a super senior or will Arkansas native E’Marion Harris live up to his hype coming out of high school and take over that spot?

These are all questions Mateos – and Pittman and offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino – must figure out this spring.

Returning Player(s) to Watch in Spring Ball

The Apostrophe Brothers – Ty’Kieast Crawford & E’Marion Harris

Most of the apparent position battles on the offensive line involve at least one newcomer, but the guard spot opposite Joshua Braun looks like it’ll be a traditional young vs. old competition between a couple of guys who’ve been in the program for multiple years.

Ty’Kieast Crawford is the older player, as he’s a super senior entering his fifth season of college football thanks to the pandemic-related eligibility relief granted to all players active in 2020.

Although he began his career at Charlotte, Crawford was originally committed to Arkansas as a four-star recruit in Chad Morris’ last class. He also received a lot of interest from LSU, but grades ultimately led to him ending up at the Group of Five level. After one year with the 49ers, though, the 6-foot-5, 326-pound lineman hit the portal and landed in Fayetteville, where he was expected to immediately compete for a starting job or at least significant playing time.

Despite him being in the mix each of the last three seasons, that has never come to fruition. Bouncing between guard and tackle, Crawford has played 482 snaps and made six starts – four at right tackle and two at right guard. Those have been spot starts because of injuries, though.

The Carthage, Texas, native could have chosen to move on from football or transfer somewhere else for his final season of eligibility, but he opted to return, so he must believe he has a good shot of finally breaking through.

One guy who could have something to say about that is E’Marion Harris. His similarities to Crawford extend beyond both of them having an apostrophe in their first name. Harris was also a four-star recruit pursued by many big-time programs coming out of Joe T. Robinson High and since getting to campus, he’s spent time at tackle and guard.

All of his playing time has come at guard, though, with most of his 104 career snaps coming as an injury replacement at right guard in the Liberty Bowl against Kansas, when he was a true freshman. The 6-foot-7, 292-pound Little Rock native played 76 snaps in that game. Last season, he played 7 snaps at right guard against Western Carolina and then 15 combined snaps at left guard against BYU and FIU.

Now a redshirt sophomore, it’s not unfair to say it’s time for Harris to make a move and assert himself as a potential multi-year starter — and it’s now or never for Crawford.

Arkansas Football Newcomers

Keyshawn Blackstock, Fernando Carmona Jr., Addison Nichols, Kobe Branham, Zuri Madison, *Timothy Dawn, *Jonas Nantze

It was obvious pretty early on that Arkansas would hit the transfer portal hard for help up front, even though every scholarship offensive lineman on last year’s team technically had remaining eligibility. The struggles were too great to ignore and spots opened up when Beaux Limmer declared for the NFL Draft, Brady Latham opted not to use his super senior season and Devon Manuel hit the transfer portal.

The first guy to jump on board was Keyshawn Blackstock. He committed to the Razorbacks before the end of the season, as he was able to enter the transfer portal early because Michigan State fired head coach Mel Tucker.

Despite playing only 74 snaps in four games with the Spartans, it was seen as a big pickup because he was a four-star recruit coming out of Coffeyville C.C. in Kansas the previous cycle. Arkansas was aided by the fact Blackstock played alongside Amaury Wiggins in JUCO and the fact that he’s from Georgia, where the Razorbacks have extensive recruiting ties.

The next two portal commits came within days of each other, with Fernando Carmona Jr. quickly followed by Addison Nichols.

Carmona was lightly recruited in the Class of 2021, but that’s understandable considering he didn’t play much in high school and he played tight end. Upon arriving at San Jose State, though, he bulked up and moved to the offensive line. It proved to be a great move because he was the Spartans’ starting left tackle as a redshirt freshman.

Over the last two years, he’s started 24 games and played 1,574 snaps while posting PFF grades of 63.4 and 81.5, which made him a coveted prospect in the transfer portal.

Nichols’ college career has been on an opposite arc. The Georgia native was heavily recruited as a top-150, four-star prospect out of high school, with Sam Pittman even offering him early on while still at Georgia. Tennessee ended up being his landing spot, but he’s played sparingly over the last two years.

All 128 of his career snaps have been at guard, but the Razorbacks envision the 6-foot-5, 327-pound Atlanta area product as a center.

Arkansas also landed a commitment from Timothy Dawn, an in-state product who signed with Baylor out of high school and has experience playing for Eric Mateos. However, he’s a preferred walk-on.

Out of the high school ranks, Arkansas signed Kobe Branham and Zuri Madison, plus landed Jonas Nantze as a preferred walk-on. They could be really good players, but it’s hard to play on the offensive line as true freshmen in the SEC, so they’ll likely be depth pieces for now.

Projected Arkansas OL Depth Chart Entering Spring

LTAndrew ChambleeFernando Carmona Jr.
LGJoshua BraunJosh Street
CAmaury WigginsAddison Nichols
RGTy’Kieast CrawfordE’Marion Harris
RTPatrick KutasKeyshawn Blackstock
Others: Luke Brown, Paris Patterson, Kobe Branham, Zuri Madison, *Tommy Varhall, *Brooks Edmonson, *Timothy Dawn, *Kai Hamilton, *Luke Johnston, *Aaron Smith, *Jonas Nantze


Similar to our projection of the linebacker depth chart, we favored the older, returning players over the younger players or newcomers because that’s what Sam Pittman has said he’ll do from now on after making the mistake a couple years ago of immediately inserting transfers into the starting lineup.

Keyshawn Blackstock, Fernando Carmona and Addison Nichols have a great chance of being starters in 2024, but they must earn it in spring ball.

Figuring out the fourth guard was perhaps the most difficult spot to fill on this depth chart, but Josh Street is a safe bet because the coaches clearly like him. He’s a former walk-on now on scholarship and has been a steady presence in the two-deep at both center and guard the last couple of years despite never really pushing for actual playing time.

It will be interesting, though, to see how Luke Brown and Paris Patterson have developed after one year in the program.

Arkansas Football Spring Previews




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