The transfer portal only just opened up to all players and the Arkansas football team has already landed its first transfer of the offseason.
On the heels of his official visit to Fayetteville this weekend, former Florida offensive lineman Josh Braun announced his commitment to the Razorbacks on Monday. He is a graduate transfer with three years of eligibility remaining.
“This is a great place,” Braun said. “These are some of the most avid fans I’ve seen. It’s a great situation. They were telling us the University of Arkansas football team is the biggest football team, sports venue in the state.
“There’s no pro teams and no other Power 5 school. We can tell they are the pride of Arkansas. Just to be able to put on for a state like Arkansas and the fan base would be amazing and quite the experience. I’m looking forward to being involved in Fayetteville and the University and sports.”
A four-star recruit out in the 2020 recruiting class, the 6-foot-6, 335-pound Braun originally committed to Sam Pittman when he was the offensive line coach at Georgia before flipping to Florida. The Florida native was also recruited by Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Oregon, Penn State, USC and several others.
Coming out of the portal, he was pursued by the likes of Florida State, Penn State, UCF and Oklahoma State. A visit to the Seminoles was in the works, but Braun decided to shut it down instead.
“There was some others out there, but I didn’t want to go too crazy with it,” Braun said. “I only wanted to go to places I was comfortable with. At the end of the day, Arkansas is the place I’m most familiar with, comfortable with and where I want to be the next 2-3 years.”
On top of the connection to Pittman, Braun’s two older brothers played offensive line at Georgia Tech. One of them, Parker, played with Arkansas defensive end Jordan Domineck with the Yellow Jackets.
It’s also worth noting that Braun is not your typical college athlete. He got his degree at Florida in Classical Studies and hopes to go into seminary after he’d done playing football. He’s also married and has previously said his wife would be a major factor in his decision.
“I’m married, so I have to find a place for my wife to live the next three years,” Braun told 247Sports last month. “That is important. I have to do right by her and find her a good place to live. Where is she going to go to school, what is her life going to be like wherever we ultimately move to? So I’m not making this decision on my own. I’m not the deciding factor. It is a process that we are both going through and it is a decision we are going to have to make together.”
This is the second offensive lineman Pittman has signed out of the transfer portal, with the other also being a former four-star recruit in Ty’Kieast Crawford from Charlotte. He’s also brought in a transfer from Florida before and he turned out great, as quarterback Feleipe Franks broke the UA’s 41-year-old record for single-season completion percentage.
As for this cycle, Braun is the first of what is expected to be several transfer additions for Arkansas. The Razorbacks are also set to host Andrew Armstrong, a wide receiver from the FCS ranks at Texas A&M-Commerce, and they’ll likely target more now that the portal is open to everyone.
Exactly how many transfers Arkansas lands remains to be seen, but it needs at least a couple to get to 85 scholarships, according to Best of Arkansas Sports’ projections. It would need more if there are additional players who transfer out or choose not to return as super seniors in 2023.
Josh Braun with Florida Football
A standout performer at Sewannee High School in Live Oak, Fla., Josh Braun committed to Georgia over Florida and South Carolina during the summer before his senior year. Sam Pittman was a major factor in that decision.
“I like all the coaches, but I like Coach Pittman specifically,” Braun told 247Sports back in 2019. “I like his coaching style. I like how he could develop me.”
However, before he had a chance to sign with the Bulldogs, Pittman left Georgia to become the head coach at Arkansas. That led to Braun re-opening his recruitment and deciding to stay home, as he flipped to the in-state Gators.
As a true freshman, he appeared in 11 of 12 games overall and got snaps on offense six times, including a start against Vanderbilt. Almost all of his 147 snaps were at right guard.
In 2021, Braun split time at right guard early in the season before taking over as the starter at left guard midway through the season. He started seven games and played 639 total snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
Dan Mullen was fired late in the season, though, and that likely prevented him from building on his sophomore season. Under new head coach Billy Napier, Braun opened the season as the backup right guard behind O’Cyrus Torrence, who played for Napier at Louisiana-Lafayette and was a Lombardi Award semifinalist this season.
After appearing in only two games, Braun decided to leave the team and focus on getting his degree so he could be a graduate transfer. He played 24 offensive snaps — all against Eastern Washington — and got reps at both guard spots and left tackle.
When he got in the portal, Arkansas made a lot of sense as a landing spot for Braun and now he’ll have an opportunity to finally play for Pittman.
“When he was recruiting me at Georgia, he was very upfront with me that the only job (he’d leave for) was the head coaching job at Arkansas,” Braun said. “It was kind of his dream. So to see him achieve his dream and to be able to a part of him having success in a place he loves so much will be tremendous. I’m looking forward to being on his team and helping him win championships.”
Get to know Josh Braun:
What it Means for Arkansas Football
Although he played some left tackle this season, Josh Braun has told reporters that he views himself as a guard and intends to play that at his next stop.
Both of the Razorbacks’ starting guards — Brady Latham and Beaux Limmer — are set to return as fifth-year seniors next season, so at first glance, it doesn’t seem like there’s an open spot for him right off the bat.
However, there’s a chance both of those players end up somewhere else on the offensive line in 2023. Most notably, Limmer could slide over from right guard to center with Ricky Stromberg moving on to the NFL Draft.
Sam Pittman said Arkansas might give Braun a look there during bowl practices and in the Liberty Bowl because his future is at that position, but Marcus Henderson — who has been the second-team center at practice when healthy this season — will also get a look.
Assuming Limmer makes that move next season, that’d open up the right guard position. The left guard position could open up depending on where Latham ends up, as he would be a candidate to slide over to left tackle if Luke Jones doesn’t return as a super senior in 2023.
The Razorbacks must replace right tackle Dalton Wagner, who is out of eligibility, as well. The logical choice would be Ty’Kieast Crawford because he’s the listed backup at right tackle and started the one game Wagner missed with an injury, but Crawford could also end up on the inside.
Depending on how his legal situation shakes out, former four-star recruit and redshirt sophomore Jalen St. John would be another candidate for playing time at guard. However, he’s been indefinitely suspended and his future status with the team is up in the air.
Other young guys who could push for playing time at guard include current true freshmen E’Marion Harris and Patrick Kutas. Harris was also a four-star recruit, while Kutas has drawn a lot of praise from the coaching staff and didn’t redshirt this season because of his play on special teams.
All of that is to say Josh Braun likely won’t be able to just walk right into a starting job at Arkansas. Pittman has developed some quality depth on the offensive line, so he’ll have to win a battle to get on the field.
Of course, with three years of eligibility remaining — thanks to the bonus year from the pandemic — he doesn’t absolutely have to start in 2023. He could be a backup behind one of the veterans, learn the system and become a starter in 2024 and 2025.
Here’s the latest projection of the 2023 Arkansas football roster:
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