He never played for the Razorbacks, but Austin Reaves gave his home state school an assist Friday by nudging defensive tackle Keivie Rose toward his commitment to Arkansas football.
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Fresh off an official visit to Fayetteville, Rose — an All-CUSA performer at Louisiana Tech last season — posted on Twitter that he’d announce his commitment the following day if his favorite team, the Los Angeles Lakers, finished off the Warriors in Game 6 of their second-round series in the NBA Playoffs.
The Lakers obliged with a dominant 122-101 win in which Reaves played a key role, dropping 23 points to go along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. The Newark native also knocked down 4 of 5 attempts from beyond the arc, including a buzzer-beating half court shot that gave Los Angeles a 10-point halftime lead.
Turns out, that was the first of two consecutive 23-point games for Austin Reeves. On Tuesday, in Game 1 of the Denver vs Los Angeles Western Conference Finals, he hit 5 of 9 three pointers and added 8 assists to help lead the Lakers back from a 21-point deficit (they eventually lost by 6 points).
Still, his preceding heroics helped set the stage was set for Arkansas football to net one of the most coveted interior defensive linemen remaining in the transfer portal.
Rose, along with Maryland transfer Anthony “Tank” Booker Jr., fills a major need for the Razorbacks, who had to beat out Ole Miss, TCU, Colorado, West Virginia, Miami (Fla.), Mississippi State, Virginia Tech and Missouri to land his services.
Although he’ll be a fifth-year senior in 2023, the 6-foot-3, 303-pound defensive tackle technically has two years of eligibility remaining because of the bonus year granted by the NCAA in response to the pandemic.
Keivie Rose with Louisiana Tech Football
A lot has changed in four years for Keivie Rose. When he was coming out of Henderson, Texas, in the Class of 2019, Rose was an unheralded defensive end.
Although a trio of Big 12 programs — Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech — extended offers, Rose was primarily recruited by Group of Five and FCS teams. Listed at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, he was a two-star recruit on Rivals and low three-star on 247Sports.
It didn’t help that he missed a chunk of his junior year with a broken fibula, but he did return in time to help the Lions reach the Texas Class 4A-Division I quarterfinals.
The following summer, before his senior year, Rose committed to Louisiana Tech over Texas Tech — opting for the C-USA program just two hours from his hometown over the Big 12 school seven hours away.
During his first year of college, Rose appeared in only one game and redshirted as he bulked up. By the time the 2020 season rolled around, he had packed on about 50 pounds and moved inside, earning a starting job at defensive tackle within a few games of his redshirt freshman campaign.
That year, he made 24 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and half of a sack, and posted a 53.0 Pro Football Focus grade on 363 snaps. He’s gotten steadily better since then, starting every game each of the last two seasons.
In 2021, he earned a 68.1 defensive grade on 467 snaps while being officially credited with 25 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack and 2 pass breakups. That landed him an honorable mention All-CUSA nod.
This past season, Rose’s numbers were very similar, but on a significantly larger number of snaps. Now listed at 303 pounds, he played nearly 54 defensive snaps per game, which may have contributed to his uptick in missed tackles (8) compared to his previous two seasons combined (2), according to PFF.
Despite the increased workload, he still posted a 69.7 PFF grade on 647 snaps and finished with 24 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, which helped him make the All-CUSA first team.
That’s why, four years later and about 60 pounds heavier, Keivie Rose was pursued by many more Power Five programs when he entered the transfer portal during the spring window.
What it Means for Arkansas Football
Outside of wide receiver, which the Razorbacks took care of with mid-year transfers, the position that most needed a boost from the transfer portal was defensive tackle.
They were already light at that spot, with Terry Hampton exhausting his eligibility, and then Isaiah Nichols hit the transfer portal. Those two accounted for a majority of Arkansas’ defensive tackle snaps in 2022, when it primarily ran a three-man front.
With the hire of new defensive coordinator Travis Williams, the Razorbacks have shifted to a base defense with a four-man front, so they needed even more defensive tackles.
Even with Eric Gregory shifting inside and Taurean Carter returning from a torn ACL that kept him out all of last season, Arkansas still had just five scholarship defensive tackles on the roster during spring ball – and a handful of them were limited because of injuries at various points in practice.
In addition to Gregory and Carter, only redshirt sophomore Cameron Ball has played meaningful snaps. The other two were fifth-year senior Marcus Miller, a reserve with 122 career snaps, and redshirt freshman JJ Hollingsworth, a converted defensive end who has yet to play in college.
To create enough depth to successfully run a four-man front in 2023, Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman set his sights on adding two defensive tackles from the transfer portal.
He got one in Anthony “Tank” Booker Jr. from Maryland last month, but missed out on Minnesota’s Trill Carter, who committed to Texas. Luckily for the Razorbacks, Keivie Rose came available and they were able to reel him in to solidify what appears to be a pretty solid defensive line on paper.
Including defensive back AJ Brathwaite Jr. from Western Kentucky, who committed a few hours after Rose on Saturday, Arkansas has now landed 17 players from the transfer portal this cycle.
That brings them to 82 scholarship players for the 2023 season, according to Best of Arkansas Sports’ unofficial roster tracker, meaning they still have three spots to fill. Those are believed to be set aside for another defensive back, interior offensive lineman and wide receiver.
More coverage of Arkansas football and the transfer portal from BoAS…