Arkansas football fans can be forgiven for wondering aloud, “What in the world is happening in Fayetteville?” What they should not do is panic.
With unexpected transfer departures like Ketron Jackson Jr. and Jalen Catalon, coupled with three recent decommitments from talented recruits, it can look like the program is crumbling. Knowing that similar concerns are being voiced about programs on college campuses nearly everywhere is small solace when it’s your team that comes across as being gutted.
The availability of lucrative NIL deals combined with the transfer portal and immediate eligibility for transfers has created a chaotic atmosphere in college football across the country, and it may signal the ultimate end of the NCAA as it relates to FBS football.
Some Positivity for Arkansas Football
In the meantime, though, let’s try to make just a little merry. After the start of the early signing period, the Hogs’ 2023 class has a national ranking of No. 21 from the 247Sports Composite. It’s based, in large part, on the strength of having at least seven four-stars signees coming out of high school. Arkansas fans don’t have to look too far into the past to remember when getting just a few 4-stars was considered success.
The Razorbacks could have eight four-stars if Shamar Easter sticks and signs in February and they would have had nine if not for the loss of Micah Tease to Texas A&M. At this point, because of the developments mentioned above, which accrue mostly to the benefit of the players, there’s no way to know how long any of them will play for the Hogs.
However, if any do leave, they should be careful what they wish for. Let’s look at where former Arkansas defensive back Myles Slusher landed. Despite his arrest after the loss to Liberty in November, he started contributing nearly the day he walked on campus and had 8 tackles against Ole Miss in his swan song as a Hog just last month. He’ll be playing for the Louisville Cardinals next season. The ACC isn’t exactly the best of the best. I’m guessing Slusher hoped he would keep playing in the SEC, or at least the Big 12 given his Oklahoma background.
How *Not* to Leave the Razorbacks
Arkansas football players should also be careful about how they exit the university that has provided a free education for the time they were on the Hill.
For instance, Jaquayln Crawford is a case study in how NOT to exit.
If you don’t know who he is, there’s a reason. Crawford was a wide receiver for the Hogs who did little more than merit the title of “possibly the fastest Razorback” and occupy a scholarship that could’ve been given to an actual contributor. He’s in the portal for the second time now, but his history does not make him what you would call a “high value target.”
Crawford took an official visit to Arkansas five years ago on Dec. 16, 2017. Four days later, he stuck with his commitment to Oklahoma and signed a National Letter of Intent. By June of 2020, he found his way back to Arkansas as a redshirt junior.
Fast forward to August 2022, when he entered the transfer portal after seeing the field in just seven games, and he had racked up just 27 yards on three receptions — against Georgia Southern (2) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1) — in an Arkansas uniform.
While he was picking up 27 yards against rent-a-win teams, Treylon Burks was running roughshod through the Alabama secondary on his way to a rare 1,000-yard season. Bad timing for Crawford.
If that were the end of the story, it would be about a guy trying to find his place in the world. Similar to how Drew Sanders found his way straight from Tuscaloosa to Fayetteville to first-team All-American. No harm, no foul. Unfortunately for Crawford, that’s not where this story ends.
Jaquayln Crawford’s Sour Grapes
Earlier this week, Crawford jumped right back onto Hog fans’ radar when he couldn’t help himself from chiming in on previously mentioned recruit Micah Tease’s decommitment from Arkansas. Crawford replied by saying, “Smart move.” He then either realized the error of his ways, or someone told him to remove the sour grapes from his mouth, and deleted the Tweet.
It turns out the delete button also works in Mississippi for those who desperately need to retract their words. Former Mississippi State running back Dillon Johnson tweeted that since he wasn’t “tough,” which apparently was Mike Leach’s assessment of him, he entered the transfer portal.
In fairness, Johnson couldn’t have foreseen what would happen in the coming days with the untimely passing of the Pirate and has since pulled down his Tweet.
To be clear though, Johnson’s 1,000-plus rushing yards in three seasons at MSU — which does require some toughness — is far better than Crawford’s three receptions for 27. Was Leach correct? Probably. If Johnson was more mentally tough, he would’ve taken the criticism constructively, which is probably the way it was meant, and used it as a motivator.
Crawford, on the other hand, should look in the mirror to figure out who, or what, was the common denominator between his irrelevant time at OU and his irrelevant time at Arkansas. If he’s honest with himself, he would realize the common denominator is staring right back at him.
Yes, a few Hog fans leave lots to be desired. Nobody in their right mind should lob an F-bomb at Treylon Burks for skipping last year’s Outback Bowl to prepare for the NFL draft, but this guy sure did. Most Razorback supporters who voice their opinion about individual coaches and players who leave the program honestly wish them luck. Fans don’t appreciate it when the feeling is not mutual.
Life is a two-way street. The sooner a person realizes this, the better off they are. With that, here’s to wishing Slusher and all the others who have entered the portal, including Crawford, good luck.
More about Arkansas transfers and Crawford starting at 8:00 below:
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