Domino Effect of Hogs’ Most Surprising Defensive Depth Chart Development + Day 10 Practice Tidbits

Doneiko Slaughter, Arkansas football
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics/JP Sinuk

FAYETTEVILLE — For the most part, Arkansas’ defensive depth chart has come together about as expected.

Through 10 practices this spring, there appears to still be competition at one of the linebacker and cornerback spots, but that was anticipated.

The most surprising development has been at nickel, where Tennessee transfer Doneiko Slaughter has seemingly jumped ahead of returning starter Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson. He’s run with the starting group quite a bit the last few days and, as far as Best of Arkansas Sports could tell, he took all of the reps with the first-team unit Thursday morning.

Speaking to reporters following that practice, defensive coordinator Travis Williams had nothing but good things to say about the newcomer.

“He has a cool calm about him,” Williams said. “He’s a veteran. He’s played a lot of ball. He has an old demeanor as far as like, he’s a man. He says what he means and he means what he says. He’s the type of guy that’s really smart.

“He’s come in and he loves ball. The more and more he comes in and just learns ball, you can see that it’s showing on the field and his leadership skills as well. We’re happy that we have him.”

Over his last two seasons with the Volunteers, Slaughter started 14 games and played more than 800 total snaps as a cornerback. That came after two seasons in which he played much more sparingly, but as a nickel, so it appears he’s going back to his roots with the Razorbacks.

What makes the development particularly interesting is the fact that he’d be taking the spot of Johnson, who was a mainstay on Arkansas’ defense last season after transferring from Baylor. In fact, he started all 12 games and played a team-high 688 defensive snaps in 2023.

Even though he took the second-team snaps at nickel Thursday, Johnson isn’t necessarily relegated to a backup role. Four of the Lancaster, Texas native’s starts last year were at cornerback and he played that position at Baylor, so if the Razorbacks are sold on Slaughter at nickel, perhaps he could move there.

After all, the second cornerback spot opposite of Jaylon Braxton is very much up for grabs. Kee’yon Stewart and Jaheim Singletary appear to be battling it out, but South Alabama transfer Marquise Robinson could also get into the mix.

What it will likely boil down to is whether or not Arkansas’ coaching staff believes Johnson is one of the best five defensive backs on the team. If the answer is ‘yes,’ they’ll find a way to get him on the field, similar to how Sam Pittman constructs his offensive line.

Day 10 Arkansas Spring Practice Observations

Here are a few other observations and tidbits from the Razorbacks’ 10th day of spring ball…

  • On the injury front, tight end Ty Washington and running back Rashod Dubinion were still in green non-contact jerseys Thursday. With the team in half-pads and not tackling, Dubinion was still able to go through team stuff. Washington did not.

  • A pair of defensive backs – Marquise Slaughter and Christian Ford – were not dressed out because of apparent injuries. Wide receivers Andrew Armstrong and Jaedon Wilson did dress out and participated in individual drills, but were not involved in the team periods.

  • Lance Jackson, a four-star athlete in the 2025 class, was present at Thursday’s practice. He is the younger brother of star defensive end Landon Jackson, but committed to Texas in January.

  • While the Razorbacks would probably still like to flip the younger Jackson, there’s another reason he might be in town: Landon Jackson is getting married on Saturday, according to defensive coordinator Travis Williams. The wedding is in the evening, but Jackson is still expected to participate in the scrimmage that morning.

  • It was not a great day for the offense, as the practice was marred by drops and bad throws in the passing game. Jordan Anthony and Davion Dozier dropped passes without a defense present and in a team period, Var’keyes Gumms and Tyrone Broden had back-to-back drops. Gumms’ came on a perfectly placed ball 30-plus yards downfield by Taylen Green as he was racing down the seam for what would have been a touchdown.

  • During the fastball starts period early in practice, there was a wild play that involved Jacolby Criswell having a pass broken up by Alex Sanford, which led to the ball popping into the air and falling right into Ian Geffrard. However, Criswell stuck with the play and notched a pass breakup of his own by knocking the ball out of Geffrard’s hands to prevent the interception.

  • Taylen Green had a tough day, as many of his passes sailed well out of bounds, not even giving his receiver a chance to come down with it. One of his overthrows resulted in an interception by Jaheim Singletary.

  • The 7-on-7 period was ROUGH for the offense. According to our unofficial charting, the quarterbacks combined to complete only 11 of 28 passes (39.3%) before moving into the red zone area. With a shorter field, the quarterbacks were actually better, going 8 of 12 (66.7%). Green was just 3 of 10 in that initial part before going 3 of 4 in the red zone – however, that one incompletion was an interception by TJ Metcalf.

  • In a third-down situational period, in which each unit attempted a play needing to gain 2, 3, 4 and 5 yards, the first-team offense moved the chains just once in four tries. The second and third units each went 3 of 4.

  • In the kicking game, Hawaii transfer Matthew Shipley had a nice bounce-back day after struggling on Tuesday. He got the first-team reps and made kicks from 29, 42 and 55 yards, but missed a 48-yarder slightly wide left. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Vito Calvaruso had a bad day. He missed all three of his attempts, which were from 41, 48 and 54 yards. The 41-yarder was nowhere close to the uprights.

More on Doneiko Slaughter’s arrival here:

Travis Williams Interview

Arkansas defensive coordinator Travis Williams spent about 20 minutes answering questions from reporters following Thursday’s practice. Watch the full interview below:

YouTube video


YouTube video

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