Make it three commitments out of the transfer portal in three days for Arkansas football, as defensive back Alfahiym Walcott announced his pledge Sunday afternoon.
A two-year starter and All-Big 12 honoree for the Bears, Walcott originally planned to make his final decision during the week and after a visit to Florida. Instead, he had seen everything he needed to see on an official visit to Fayetteville and pulled the trigger early.
“The community here is a tight-knit community,” Walcott said. “I feel like this is a school where I could develop. I only have one more year, so I could be able to develop around a group of coaches that can help me to the next level. … The head coach and all the coaches here are showing a lot of love and I really appreciate it. That’s what I’m looking for in a school.”
The North Carolina native and JUCO product also visited Texas A&M before checking to the Razorbacks, but he said the pitch he got from new defensive coordinator Travis Williams and co-defensive coordinator Marcus Woodson really caught his eye.
“Ever since they called me, I knew Arkansas was a place I wanted to visit,” Walcott said. “These guys are really genuine. They kept it real with me from the jump, since the first call. I really think they could develop me for the next level and prepare me for there.”
Walcott was listed as a senior on Baylor’s roster this season, but can play as a super senior in 2023 because of the eligibility relief granted by the NCAA to all players in college football during the pandemic-altered 2020 season. He also still has his redshirt available.
The Razorbacks have now landed seven transfers this offseason, with Walcott following linebacker Antonio Grier Jr. from South Florida and cornerback Lorando Johnson — Walcott’s former teammate at Baylor — in the last couple of days.
Offensive lineman Joshua Braun from Florida, quarterback Jacolby Criswell from North Carolina and wide receiver Andrew Armstrong from Texas A&M-Commerce and defensive end John Morgan III from Pittsburgh were each announced by the UA during the early signing period.
Alfahiym Walcott at Baylor
A virtual unknown coming out of Laney High School in Wilmington, N.C., in the 2019 class, Alfahiym Walcott was unrated by the major recruiting services and didn’t report any offers.
That led him to take the JUCO route and one year at Butler C.C. in Kansas completely changed his recruitment. Rivals tabbed him a two-star prospect and 247Sports considered him a low three-star recruit, but he still picked up numerous offers and took official visits to SMU and Auburn before ultimately signing with Baylor on the traditional National Signing Day 2020.
In his first season with the Bears, Walcott was primarily a special teams contributor and actually graded out well thanks to three tackles as part of the kickoff and punt coverage units.
Last year, he missed the first couple games of the season before working his way into the starting lineup and starting at cornerback in the final eight games of Baylor’s 12-win campaign. He notched three interceptions, including one he returned 96 yards for a touchdown in the Bears’ 21-7 win over Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl — a record for the prestigious bowl.
With Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jalen Pitre moving on to the NFL, Walcott moved from cornerback to Baylor’s STAR position, or nickel back, and started every regular-season game this year.
Although he had only one interception, he finished second on the team with 82 tackles — a total that included a team-high 10 tackles for loss. He also forced three fumbles and had four pass breakups.
“I’m a guy that brings physicality,” Walcott said. “I love being physical. That’s what I’m about. Then I’m a guy that’s going to bring that leadership role. I don’t accept mediocrity.”
Those numbers earned him second-team All-Big 12 honors from the AP and led to him finishing with a solid 75.0 grade from Pro Football Focus on 721 defensive snaps. That mark was tied with fellow Arkansas transfer commit Lorando Johnson for the third-best on Baylor’s defense (min. 50 snaps).
It’s also worth noting that Walcott did all of that despite playing a majority of the season with a club and cast on his lower right arm because of an injury in fall camp that required surgery.
What it Means for Arkansas Football
For the second straight offseason, the Razorbacks landed a pair of teammates from the transfer portal, as they got defensive end Landon Jackson and cornerback Dwight McGlothern from LSU last year.
The fact that it was a pair of defensive backs this cycle — Alfahiym Walcott and Lorando Johnson from Baylor — is not much of a surprise because Sam Pittman hasn’t been shy about his plan to get help for his secondary via the portal.
Arkansas desperately needs help on the back end of its defense after giving up the most passing yards both in the FBS this year and in school history, allowing 294.7 yards through the air per game.
Improved coverage skills will also be vital in new defensive coordinator Travis Williams’ system, as Pittman said it involves more four-man fronts and one-on-one coverage in an effort to rush the passer.
In addition to replacing Jalen Catalon, Simeon Blair and Latavious Brini at safety, the Razorbacks are searching for a new nickel, as well, after the oft-injured Myles Slusher left the team prior to the regular-season finale at Missouri and hit the portal.
If he remains at the position he played at Baylor this season, Walcott could slot in as the starting nickel in 2023. His top competition would presumably be Jayden Johnson and Jaylen Lewis, who spent time at nickel this year.
However, there’s also a chance it could be a similar situation to Brini, who was a starting nickel at Georgia, but transferred to Arkansas to get an opportunity to play safety. Walcott did start at cornerback for the Bears in 2021.
Who’s Next from the Transfer Portal
The current transfer portal window closes Jan. 18, but that is just the deadline for players to enter. They can exit the portal — by committing to a new school or withdrawing — at any time.
However, in order to go through spring ball, transfers must enroll in classes pretty soon. At Arkansas, classes start Jan. 17.
Even after Alfahiym Walcott’s commitment, the Razorbacks still have somewhere between 11-14 scholarship to fill on next year’s roster, so the next couple of weeks could see a lot more action in terms of more transfers announcing their decision to play at Arkansas.
In fact, there’s a chance Walcott and Lorando Johnson are joined by yet another former Baylor teammate in the secondary. Cornerback Mike Harris — who was actually committed to Arkansas at one point in high school — was also slated to visit Fayetteville this week. Getting three transfers in the same position group from the same program in the same year would be a rarity indeed.
Other players the Razorbacks hosted during the Jan. 4-8 special visit window for transfers include defensive back DJ Taylor from Arizona State, a pair of tight ends — Jake Roberts from North Texas and Cane Berrong from Notre Dame — and a trio of wide receivers: Dont’e Thornton from Oregon, Xavier Weaver from South Florida and Isaac TeSlaa from Division II Hillsdale College.
More coverage of Arkansas football and the transfer portal from BoAS…