Making Sense of Arkansas’ Head-Scratching Portal Addition

Andreas Paaske, Eastern Michigan, Arkansas football, transfer portal
photo credit: EMU Athletics

For the third time in two years, Arkansas football has nabbed a transfer from a school in the Great Lakes State, this time landing Andreas Paaske out of Eastern Michigan.

A tight end from Denmark known more for his blocking than his pass-catching ability, Paaske is the second transfer portal pickup of the 2023-24 cycle for the Razorbacks.

The first came late in the season when offensive lineman Keyshawn Blackstock from Michigan State committed on Nov. 20. They follow in the footsteps of wide receiver Isaac TeSlaa, who came to Arkansas last offseason from Hillsdale College, a Division II program in the state.

Of course, the most famous player to make such a move was the late Ryan Mallett. He left the Michigan Wolverines following the 2007 season to return home and play for former head coach and current offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino.

It would be hard to match, or even come close to, the impact Mallett had on the Arkansas football program, but head coach Sam Pittman and his staff are still actively pursuing other transfers.

They’ve extended 20-plus offers to players in the portal and, according to our unofficial roster tracker, still have 14 scholarships to fill for 2024, not including the potential super seniors who’ve yet to announce their decisions. That number could grow with de-commitments and players transferring out or shrink with commitments and super seniors returning.

Andreas Paaske at Eastern Michigan

A two-star recruit in the 2021 class, according to 247Sports, Andreas Paaske signed with Eastern Michigan and redshirted without seeing the field his first year in college.

Listed at 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, he took a big step as a redshirt freshman in 2022, appearing in all 13 of the Eagles’ games and seeing a noticeable uptick in playing time as the season progressed.

After averaging only 8.6 offensive snaps over the first five games of the season, he played 26.3 snaps per game the rest of the way. In addition to catching 10 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, Paaske earned a solid 66.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. That included a 61.8 pass-blocking mark and 55.0 run-blocking mark.

Despite having that year under his belt, Paaske’s playing time decreased this past season. Although he started two games, he appeared in only seven of 12 games and played just 168 total snaps — down from his 253 snaps a year earlier.

That said, one-third of his snaps came in Eastern Michigan’s final game of the year, as he played 56 snaps in the win over Buffalo that made the Eagles bowl eligible.

However, his production also wasn’t what it was in 2022. Paaske caught only four passes for 39 yards and his PFF grade dipped to 49.2. That included an abysmal 28.4 pass-blocking grade and 54.7 run-blocking grade.

What it Means for Arkansas Football

Given the fact that Andreas Paaske’s traditional stats don’t exactly jump off the page, this seems to be a head-scratching addition out of the transfer portal.

However, he appears to be more of a blocking tight end than a pass-catching one — think Blake Kern, Nathan Bax, Francis Sherman.

With Luke Hasz and Ty Washington both announcing their return to the Razorbacks, that is probably okay because there likely won’t be many tight end targets to go around after them. If they get hurt again, redshirt freshman Shamar Easter is waiting in the wings.

The Razorbacks also landed a commitment from JUCO transfer Gregory Genross, but his exact style is unclear. In 17 games at Dodge City C.C., he caught 26 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns.

In new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino’s system, Hasz and Washington will almost certainly fill the role that Arkansas football fans saw from the likes of D.J. Williams and Chris Gragg when Petrino was the head coach.

However, Sam Pittman is the head coach now and it’s fair to assume that Petrino will incorporate at least some power run game into the offense, which may require a tight end with a more blocking-oriented skill set, like Paaske.

Over two seasons at Eastern Michigan, about 62.9% of his total snaps were as a run blocker, with another 9.5% as a pass blocker, according to Pro Football Focus. That means he ran a route only 27.6% of the time.

Incredibly, that is the exact same career percentage as Bax, who exhausted his eligibility as a super senior this season.

The Razorbacks could technically get Sherman — who ran a route on only 19.7% of his snaps this year — back as a super senior in 2024, but the addition of Paaske makes that seem unlikely.

In fact, even if Sherman doesn’t return, Arkansas is currently projected to have six tight ends on scholarship next season. That is one more than last year and could indicate further movement at the position.

If that happens, it’d likely involve Easter or Var’keyes Gumms, as they are the two returnees who’ve yet to publicly announce their plans for next season. However, Gumms has already transferred once — from North Texas to Arkansas — and has recently posted several pro-Arkansas tweets.

Arkansas Football Lands Another Dane

For the second time in his career, Andreas Paaske is following in the footsteps of Hjalte Froholdt.

A few years after playing for the same Søllerød Gold Diggers under-19 team as the former Arkansas standout, Paaske — who grew up in Copenhagen — is heading to Fayetteville about five years after Froholdt wrapped up his career with the Razorbacks.

As many fans will remember, Froholdt was a heralded four-star defensive tackle in the 2015 class and evolved into an All-SEC offensive lineman. He was from Svendborg, but played most of his high school ball in the U.S. — first as a foreign exchange student in Ohio and then at IMG Academy in Florida.

Pittman was on staff during Froholdt’s freshman year, but he didn’t directly coach him because he still played defense that season. It wasn’t until after Pittman’s departure that Froholdt flipped to offense, a move that eventually led to him becoming just the second person from Denmark ever taken in the NFL Draft.

It seems unlikely that Paaske would join Froholdt and Pro Football Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen on that exclusive list, but his addition could further strengthen Arkansas’ status as Denmark’s college team of choice.

Razorbacks’ Tight End Room in 2024

Projected 2024 Roster (6 on scholarship, 7 w/ super seniors)

  • Var’keyes Gumms — redshirt junior
  • ^Andreas Paaske — redshirt junior (transfer from Eastern Michigan)
  • ^Greg Genross — junior (JUCO transfer)
  • Ty Washington — redshirt sophomore
  • Luke Hasz — sophomore
  • Shamar Easter — redshirt freshman
  • *Maddox Lassiter — redshirt freshman

Decision to Make

  • Francis Sherman — potential super senior

Leaving the Program

  • Nathan Bax — out of eligibility
  • *Hunter Talley — transfer portal

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Now in his fifth season in the NFL, Hjalte Froholdt is the starting center for the Arizona Cardinals. For updates on him and other former Arkansas football players in the NFL, check out our Pro Hogs page:

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More coverage of Arkansas football and the transfer portal from BoAS…

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