FAYETTEVILLE — After a week filled with a loss to Missouri, transfer portal departures and NFL Draft declarations, the Arkansas football team finally got its first bit of good news Thursday morning.
Defensive end Jordan Domineck has announced he’ll use his extra year of eligibility and return for a second season with the Razorbacks. Instead of a long message shared with a screenshot of the notes app or a special graphic, he chose to terminate any suspense over his decision and keep things simple:
It is a significant development for head coach Sam Pittman, as Best of Arkansas Sports previously ranked him as the Razorbacks’ second-most desirable super senior for 2023 and actually predicted he’d declare for the NFL Draft.
Domineck is the third of 12 players who must decide whether or not to use their extra year gained from the NCAA’s pandemic-related eligibility relief. Center Ricky Stromberg, the only player we ranked ahead of him, has already opted out of the bowl game and declared for the NFL Draft, while punter Reid Bauer is entering the transfer portal.
Other players who’ve made announcements this week that will take them out of the yet-to-be-announced bowl include wide receiver Jadon Haselwood (NFL Draft) and numerous portal entrants: quarterback Malik Hornsby, tight end Erin Outley, defensive end Eric Thomas Jr. and defensive backs Khari Johnson and Jacorrei Turner.
Jordan Domineck with the Razorbacks
Perhaps the most underrated transfer addition the Arkansas football team made last offseason, Jordan Domineck came to Fayetteville after four seasons at Georgia Tech.
Coming out of George Jenkins High School in Lakeland, Fla., he was rated no higher than a mid-tier three-star prospect by the various recruiting outlets. In picking the Yellow Jackets, Domineck turned down Iowa State, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and numerous Group of Five programs.
Over the next four years in the ACC, he proved to be a solid defensive end. Domineck was particularly good over his final two years at Georgia Tech, racking up 73 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 6 quarterback hurries and 6 forced fumbles. Pro Football Focus gave him defensive grades of 77.8 and 67.3 for those seasons, respectively.
Needing to bolster its defensive line, Arkansas made the 6-foot-3, 251-pound Domineck a priority target in the portal and he committed shortly after an official visit in March, canceling a planned visit to Auburn.
Unable to join the team for spring ball, Domineck arrived in Fayetteville over the summer and had to go through a bit of an adjustment period. He opened up fall camp with the third-team defense and Sam Pittman later told reporters that his first few practices were really rough.
Domineck eventually got things figured out, though, and moved up to the second unit. Although he hasn’t started a single game this season, he’s second on the team with 6.5 sacks. The official statistics also have him with 31 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles, while Pro Football Focus credits him with 16 total pressures on just 270 total snaps.
One of Domineck’s sacks actually came on an intentional grounding in the end zone against South Carolina. Because of the penalty, he didn’t get individual credit for the play, but it was the Razorbacks’ first safety since 2015.
PFF gives him a 75.6 overall defensive grade, which is fourth on the team behind Hudson Clark, Drew Sanders and Dwight McGlothern. It’s easily the best mark among defensive linemen, ahead of Zach Williams (71.4).
What it Means for Arkansas Football
By returning to school for a second season with the Razorbacks, Jordan Domineck snaps the recent trend of one-year fixes along the defensive line.
Defensive tackle Xavier Kelly (Clemson), in Sam Pittman’s first class of transfers, and defensive tackle John Ridgeway (Illinois State) last year each could have played another season at Arkansas, but chose to move on. The Razorbacks also leaned on Tre Williams and Markell Utsey from Missouri in 2021 and defensive tackle Terry Hampton (Arkansas State) this year, but each of them were already super seniors with no remaining eligibility.
The Arkansas football staff knew it would have defensive end Landon Jackson (LSU) back in 2023, but wasn’t sure about Domineck. Given his ability to rush the passer and having already logged five years of college football, it wasn’t a given that he’d want to return.
Now the Razorbacks are waiting on decisions from defensive tackle Isaiah Nichols and defensive end Zach Williams, both of whom are seniors capable of returning as super seniors. If they opt to come back and assuming none of them transfer, Arkansas would be losing only one of its eight defensive linemen who played at least 250 snaps this year.
That player is Hampton, but the Razorbacks would presumably be getting Taurean Carter back from injury as a replacement, plus Nico Davillier could take on a larger role in his second year with the team.
Another reason it’s significant to get Domineck back is because Arkansas is widely expected to lose linebacker Drew Sanders, who is second in the SEC and tied for ninth nationally with 9.5 sacks, to the NFL Draft.
Sanders was a huge part of an Arkansas pass rush that has generated 39 sacks this season, which is one shy of tying the school record set in 1998. That number also leads the SEC and is tied for fourth nationally. Getting a player of Domineck’s caliber and skillset back is huge for that area of the Razorbacks’ defense.
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