Why Arkansas’ 1st Transfer Portal Departure Wasn’t a Surprise

Jaylen Lewis, Arkansas football, transfer portal
photo credit: Nick Wenger

FAYETTEVILLE — The transfer portal has yet to open, but Arkansas football already knows one player who will enter when it does, as Jaylen Lewis announced his intentions Wednesday morning.

A defensive back from Brownsville, Tenn., Lewis spent two seasons with the Razorbacks before becoming the first player this cycle to leave the program.

The portal doesn’t open to all players until Dec. 4. It is currently open only to graduate transfers and players on teams whose coaches have been fired or moved on.

Last season, Arkansas football was among the nation’s leaders with 27 transfers. That helped make room for one of the better portal hauls in the country, as the 18-man class was ranked seventh nationally by On3. It was No. 11 on On3.

It’s the second year in a row that a player announced his departure during the week of the Missouri game, as former running back James Jointer Jr. — who’s now at Liberty — did the same thing last season.

While Lewis is the first departure, the Razorbacks have already made one addition from the transfer portal in former Michigan State offensive lineman Keyshawn Blackstock.

Jaylen Lewis with Arkansas Football

Rated as a high three-star prospect on most recruiting sites, Jaylen Lewis was actually tabbed a four-star cornerback by On3 coming out of Haywood High School.

The summer before his senior year, he picked the Razorbacks from a top four that included Auburn, Michigan State and Memphis, plus turned down offers from the likes of Florida State, Illinois, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Tennessee and several others.

Even though he played sparingly, Lewis drew some positive early reviews from the coaching staff.

He appeared on special teams against Mississippi State and BYU last season before getting his first defensive snap in the regular-season finale against Missouri. With the departure of Myles Slusher and a youth movement on the roster as a whole, Lewis took on a larger role in the Liberty Bowl.

He ended up playing 22 snaps and notching his first career tackle against Kansas, so he appeared to be primed for a breakout season as a redshirt freshman in 2023.

That never came to fruition for Lewis. Despite making some nice plays during media viewing periods of fall camp and opening the year listed as the backup nickel on the depth chart, he hasn’t seen the field since playing 21 snaps against Western Carolina in the opener.

Hitting the Transfer Portal

Sam Pittman told reporters last week that he didn’t anticipate nearly as many players hitting the transfer portal this offseason as last year.

However, the fact that Jaylen Lewis was the first to announce such a decision is not particularly surprising.

Not only had his playing time dwindled, but he has not been on the travel roster all year. Even though he’s listed as the third-team nickel on the depth chart, he’s more like fourth because Hudson Clark and Lorando Johnson have split most of the reps there and TJ Metcalf is next in line.

Metcalf is a true freshman, too, so Lewis has been surpassed by a younger player.

On top of that, Lewis was recruited by former defensive backs coach Sam Carter. In fact, he didn’t even include the Razorbacks in his initial top 10 and, after taking an official visit less than two months later, credited Carter for getting him to consider Arkansas.

Carter left to take a similar position at Ole Miss before Lewis ever made it to campus, though, and is now coaching the secondary at Purdue. That is where Anthony Brown, another defensive back from Tennessee in the Razorbacks’ 2022 signing class who is really good friends with Lewis, transferred after last season.

The fact that neither of them are still here, coupled with his lack of playing time and being jumped by a younger player on the depth chart, made him a prime candidate to hit the transfer portal.


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

Facebook Comments