In-Depth Report on 10 of Razorbacks’ 19 Scholarship True Freshmen

Arkansas Football Freshman Report

Rashod Dubinion, Arkansas football
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

The Arkansas football team is a quarter of the way through the 2022 season, which means it has reached the important four-game mark.

While most of the attention this week is understandably focused on the top-20 showdown with No. 2 Alabama, the Razorbacks also have a few decisions to make regarding the redshirt status of a handful of true freshmen.

Seven of the 19 players Arkansas signed out of high school in the 2022 class have appeared in all four games, which means they would burn their redshirt by making one more appearance this season, while three others have also played in at least one game.

“You really don’t ever decide to redshirt somebody to be honest with you,” head coach Sam Pittman said this week when asked about the decision process. “I think it just kind of happens.”

Last season, the Razorbacks played 11 of their 21 scholarship true freshmen, but only five of them burned their redshirt by appearing in more than four games.

Now true sophomores, those five players — running backs AJ Green and Rocket Sanders, wide receiver Ketron Jackson Jr., defensive back Jayden Johnson and kicker Cam Little — have played big roles on this year’s team, so tracking how Arkansas uses the four-game redshirt rule can give an idea of how Pittman and his staff view the players’ roles in the future.

Here’s a breakdown of the true freshmen for Arkansas football through the first four games of 2022…

On Verge of Burning Redshirt for Arkansas Football

LB Jordan Crook

  • Games played: 4
  • Snaps: 16 on D / 64 on ST
  • PFF Grade: 64.9 (D) / 66.2 (ST)
  • Stats: 2 tackles (2 solo)

No true freshman on the defensive side of the ball received as much praise throughout spring ball and fall camp as Jordan Crook. The talented linebacker from Duncanville, Texas, quickly asserted himself as a potential contributor and now seems to be the No. 4 linebacker on the team.

However, Drew Sanders and Bumper Pool have accounted for 87.5 percent of the Razorbacks’ total linebacker snaps so far this season and will likely continue to do so as long as they stay healthy. When they go to three-linebacker sets, Chris Paul Jr. is who usually enters the game. That doesn’t leave very many snaps to go around, but Crook has already played more than Paul did as a true freshman last year.

In addition to his defensive contributions, Crook also has a big role on special teams. He has played on the kickoff return, kickoff coverage, punt return and punt coverage units.

DT Nico Davillier

  • Games played: 4
  • Snaps: 4 on D / 19 on ST
  • PFF Grade: 47.9 (D) / 59.8 (ST)
  • Stats: none

While Crook received the most attention among defensive true freshmen this offseason, Nico Davillier made a push for that title despite being a summer enrollee who didn’t go through spring ball. Largely thanks to injuries on the interior defensive line, the four-star recruit out of Maumelle shifted inside to defensive tackle from defensive end and immediately turned heads. Pittman went so far as to say he wouldn’t be redshirting.

Through the first four games, though, Davillier has gotten in on defense just once, playing four snaps against Texas A&M. He appears to be fifth in the pecking order at defensive tackle, behind Isaiah Nichols, Eric Gregory, Terry Hampton and Cam Ball. Where most of Davillier’s action has come is on special teams as a member of the field goal block unit.

RB Rashod Dubinion

  • Games played: 4
  • Snaps: 34 on O
  • PFF Grade: 69.7 (O)
  • Stats: 14 carries, 54 yards, 1 TD; 1 reception, 29 yards

On the other side of the ball, Rashod Dubinion showcased his skillset — which earned him a four-star rating coming out of high school — as soon as he stepped on campus back in January. His shiftiness seemed to set him apart in a loaded backfield and has earned him somewhat consistent playing time as a true freshman.

Just this week, Sam Pittman praised Dubinion for his toughness and said the Razorbacks would like to get him some more carries, even though Rocket Sanders leads the SEC in rushing and AJ Green and Dominique Johnson have also played well.

“I know we’ve talked about AJ and Dominque and of course Rocket, but that’s the one right there that I would like to see get more carries in a game,” Pittman said. “He certainly had a couple of really nice carries in the A&M game and that’s the one we probably need to learn a little bit more about.”

Those carries against the Aggies came in the fourth quarter and included an impressive 14-yard run that got Arkansas into the red zone, setting up the touchdown that pulled it within 23-21 with about 10 minutes remaining.

Dubinion’s impact was felt immediately, as he caught a screen pass and picked up 29 yards on his first collegiate snap against Cincinnati. The next week, against South Carolina, he found the end zone for the first time.

“It’s a little bit more of a change-up,” Pittman said. “It’s a guy who can cut on a dime and things of that nature. It’s just a different back. Of course that would change it up immediately, but his running style is very unique, and we trust him.”

P Max Fletcher

  • Games played: 4
  • Snaps: 18 on ST
  • PFF Grade: 76.1 (ST — punting)
  • Stats: 18 punts, 37.2-yard average, 7 fair caught, 6 pinned inside the 20, 1 touchback; 1 tackle (1 solo)

One of the position battles that went down to the wire was at punter and Max Fletcher eventually beat out the incumbent, fifth-year senior Reid Bauer. The Australian has got off some booming punts, but Pittman described him as “inconsistent” and said he still needs to punt like he does in practice.

That’s probably a fair description, as Fletcher has three punts of less than 30 yards that weren’t pinned inside the 20 and gave the opposing team excellent field position. Two of those were against Texas A&M. 

“He was trying to keep him from returning the ball so much that…it’s like a pitcher aiming the ball versus just throwing it,” Pittman said. “He had a couple of nice punts and they didn’t have any return yardage, but on two of them there was a reason, because they were 30-yard punts, 28-yard punts.”

It’s also worth noting that his lone 50-yard punt went into the end zone for a touchback. If that’s factored into his yardage, Fletcher’s average dips to just 36.1 yards. Even with a 37.2-yard average, Fletcher ranks 71st among 74 qualified FBS punters.

However, Fletcher’s 76.1 grade on Pro Football Focus is second among 16 SEC punters and tied for seventh among 88 Power Five punters. He is likely boosted by the fact that six of his punts have been pinned inside the 20 and only three have been returned.

OL Patrick Kutas

  • Games played: 4
  • Snaps: 34 on ST
  • PFF Grade: 63.5 (ST)
  • Stats: none

Originally recruited by the Razorbacks as a defensive tackle, Patrick Kutas eventually signed as an offensive lineman. Even though the other three offensive line signees enrolled early and went through spring ball, it was Kutas who established himself as the most ready-to-play freshman during fall camp.

That was illustrated by the fact that Sam Pittman moved him to center when there were some injuries at the position. The former offensive line coach said it was a strategic move. While he was likely pretty far down the depth chart at center and struggled with snaps, playing the position forced him to quickly learn the offense and prepare him for season.

Although he’s listed as the backup center on the depth chart, there would likely need to be numerous injuries before he played the position. It would be much more likely for him to play either of the guard positions. So far this season, though, Kutas has been limited to special teams, playing on the punt coverage and field goal units.

LS Eli Stein

  • Games played: 4
  • Snaps: 40 on ST
  • PFF Grade: 67.7 (ST)
  • Stats: 1 tackle (1 solo)

One true freshman who has started every game yet hasn’t had his name mentioned by anyone through four games is Eli Stein, and that’s a good thing considering he’s the long snapper.

The Wisconsin native has snapped for 18 punts, 18 extra points and four field goals, and has yet to have any issues. He has appeared on the stat sheet, though, as he is who finally knocked Tre Tucker out of bounds on his 30-yard punt return for Cincinnati in Week 1.

TE Ty Washington

  • Games played: 4
  • Snaps: 2 on O / 20 on ST
  • PFF Grade: 60.0 (O) / 60.2 (ST)
  • Stats: none

Although the media has seen him get more third-team reps at tight end than redshirt junior Hudson Henry, Ty Washington has seemingly been fourth in the pecking order as Arkansas has been conscious of his redshirt status.

Both of his offensive snaps came in the South Carolina game when Trey Knox was dealing with an injury and the Razorbacks went to a three-tight end set that also featured Nathan Bax and Henry on the field with him.

Other than that, Washington has been part of the kickoff return unit. That has given him 20 snaps, but only three of them resulted in any action because most kickoffs are touchbacks. Because of that, Pittman has made the decision to redshirt him, barring injury to the players in front of him.

“That would be the one guy that I told our staff, ‘Hey, listen, let’s take him off of special teams,’ and if we need him to play tight end to win a game, then we will go ahead and do that,” Pittman said. “If not, then his four games would be played.”

That’s probably a wise decision because he’s not exactly getting much use on the kickoff return unit and there aren’t a whole lot of tight end reps to be had. Knox has played 76.6 percent of Arkansas’ tight end snaps and Bax has played another 20.4 percent. That leaves only a handful of snaps for the rest and Henry has already used his redshirt.

Freshmen Who Have Played Fewer than 4 Games

WR Sam Mbake

  • Games played: 3
  • Snaps: 32 on ST
  • PFF Grade: n/a
  • Stats: none

It doesn’t show up in the box score, but Sam Mbake might have made the play of the season when his block of Missouri State’s gunner sprung Bryce Stephens’ 82-yard punt return. That play gave Arkansas its first lead of the game against Bobby Petrino and the Bears, helping it avoid an embarrassing upset loss to an FCS team.

Mbake opened the season as a member of just the kickoff coverage unit, but then joined the punt return unit in Week 3 after not playing against South Carolina and added punt coverage duties against Texas A&M.

(NOTE: His Pro Football Focus grade is unavailable because his snaps after Week 2 are credited to LaDarrius Bishop because he changed his jersey number from 17 to 11 after Bishop went down with a season-ending injury. It’s also worth noting that he’s credited with a tackle in the UA’s official stats, but it was actually Trey Knox — No. 7, not No. 17 — who made the tackle following KJ Jefferson’s interception against Missouri State.)

WR Quincey McAdoo

  • Games played: 2
  • Snaps: 8 on ST
  • PFF Grade: 38.7 (ST)
  • Stats: none

Although he’s played only eight special teams snaps as a member of the punt return unit and doesn’t have any official statistics, Quincey McAdoo has played a key role — both negatively and positively — on two plays.

Against Missouri State, he was flagged for holding to wipe out a 10-yard punt return by Bryce Stephens. The penalty — which essentially resulted in Arkansas losing 12 yards of field position — is likely the reason behind his low Pro Football Focus grade. The next week against Texas A&M, McAdoo made up for it by falling on the ball when Stephens muffed a punt.

LB Mani Powell

  • Games played: 2
  • Snaps: 10 on ST
  • PFF Grade: 62.6 (ST)
  • Stats: none

While he was a midyear enrollee, Mani Powell didn’t get to go through spring ball because he was still recovering from a torn ACL suffered early in his senior season at Fayetteville High. He was cleared for fall camp, though, and certainly looks the part of an SEC linebacker.

However, he is clearly behind five other players at the position — Pool, Sanders, Paul, Crook and Jackson Woodard — and likely won’t see any defensive snaps this season. He has played on the kickoff coverage unit against Missouri State and Texas A&M, though.

True Freshman Who Have Yet to Play for Arkansas Football

  • DB Anthony Brown
  • OL Andrew Chamblee — listed as backup left tackle, but did not travel for Texas A&M game
  • OL E’Marion Harris — listed as backup right guard, was on 70-man travel roster for Texas A&M
  • OL Eli Henderson
  • LB Kaden Henley — was on 70-man travel roster for Texas A&M
  • DE JJ Hollingsworth
  • RB James Jointer
  • DB Jaylen Lewis
  • WR Isaiah Sategna — been dealing with an ankle injury, did not dress vs. Missouri State or travel for Texas A&M game
  • QB Rykar Acebo*
  • WR Kamron Bibby*
  • OL Brock Burns*
  • DL Randall Dennis Jr.*
  • OL Brooks Edmonson*
  • K Blake Ford*
  • WR Kalil Girault*
  • OL Kai Hamilton*
  • DB Ethan Joseph*
  • LS Briggs Magee*
  • DB Landon Phipps*
  • DB John Paul Pickens*
  • LB Mason Schueck*
  • TE Hunter Talley*
  • DL Kyle Thompson*



More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…

Facebook Comments