Turns Out Smoke Around Arkansas Cornerback Khari Johnson Was Fire After All

Khari Johnson, Arkansas football, transfer portal
photo credit: Nick Wenger

FAYETTEVILLE — For the second straight offseason, Arkansas football is losing multiple contributors from its secondary to the transfer portal.

The latest defensive back to leave the program is Khari Johnson, who announced his decision Tuesday afternoon. It comes just a few days after the Razorbacks capped a 6-6 regular season with a loss at Missouri.

“I am truly grateful to Coach Pitt, Coach Odom and Coach Carter for trusting and believing in my ability,” Johnson said in a statement shared via Twitter. “To Coach Walker and the strength staff, thank you for helping my transform into the player I am today physically. I sincerely appreciate it.

“To all my teammates current and former, it was an honor to play with you. Love y’all more than anything! The U of A will forever have a special place in my heart!”

Johnson had been rumored to be skipping the finale, but he traveled with the team to Columbia, Mo., even though he did not get in the game.

He is the second key member of Arkansas’ secondary to declare his intent to enter the portal, following starting nickel back Myles Slusher, who actually quit the team a week earlier and did not play against the Tigers.

Although on a lesser scale, the departures are reminiscent of last year, when Greg Brooks Jr. and Joe Foucha — who had combined to play more than 4,000 defensive snaps at Arkansas — entered the portal and landed at LSU.

This defensive back duo accounted for 19 total starts and, according to Pro Football Focus, nearly 1,500 combined snaps during their time with the Razorbacks. Had they stayed with the team, Slusher likely would have been a starter somewhere in the secondary next season, while Johnson would have had a chance to push for a starting job and would have most likely at least been in the two-deep.

Instead, they are part of a growing list of Arkansas football players to leave the program. Reserve defensive back Jacorrei Turner made a similar announcement Monday night and reserve defensive end Eric Thomas Jr. did so Tuesday afternoon, while backup quarterback Malik Hornsby is probably the most notable departure since the end of the season.

It’s also worth noting that wide receiver Warren Thompson quit after the LSU game and will now not be returning for a super senior season. It’s not yet known if he plans to enter the portal and pursue that extra year elsewhere.

All other transfers since the start of fall camp have been reserves like Turner: tight end Erin Outley, running backs Javion Hunt and James Jointer Jr., defensive back Chase Lowery, wide receiver Jaquayln Crawford and defensive tackle Taylor Lewis.

Khari Johnson at Arkansas

A late addition to the Razorbacks’ 2020 class, Sam Pittman’s first at the helm, Khari Johnson was not a heavily recruited player from Boston who played at Suffield Academy in Connecticut.

When he committed a couple weeks before the traditional National Signing Day, Johnson turned down offers from the likes of Akron, Navy and several FCS programs. He was a two-star recruit by some services and a low three-star by others.

Despite not being a heralded prospect, the Razorbacks liked what they saw from him and slotted him in the two-deep as a true freshman. That led to him making a start in the win over Ole Miss in 2020.

However, Johnson didn’t build on that early experience and actually saw his playing time decrease as a sophomore. As a junior this season, though, he has proven to be a valuable piece capable of playing multiple spots in the secondary.

Several injuries throughout the season helped him start three games and he ended up getting more snaps this year (258) than the previous two seasons combined (192).

Khari Johnson ends his career with the Razorbacks with 38 tackles and 3 pass breakups.

What it Means for Arkansas Football

As mentioned above, Khari Johnson is a veteran defensive back with starting experience for the Razorbacks. He has played all over the secondary.

Entering the season, Johnson figured to push for a starting spot at cornerback, but lost out to Dwight McGlothern, Hudson Clark and Malik Chavis. The aforementioned injuries forced him to move back to safety and he actually started against South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi State.

However, the improved health of the secondary and emergence of freshman Quincey McAdoo led to him not playing a single defensive snap over the final four games.

That means the Razorbacks might not feel his absence too much in the bowl game if they can avoid further departures and injuries. Where it matters more is with the 2023 team.

Johnson not returning also adds an extra importance to getting Simeon Blair and LaDarrius Bishop back as super seniors, and possibly even Trent Gordon — especially if Jalen Catalon and McGlothern declare for the NFL Draft.

If all of those players leave, Arkansas would return just 37.8 percent of its total snaps in the secondary.

Also, now three seasons in, only five members of the 20-man signing class Sam Pittman brought in upon his arrival remain on the team. That group includes offensive lineman Jalen St. John, whose status with the program is up in the air following a felony theft arrest last week.

Among the others, only defensive end Jashaud Stewart and running back Dominique Johnson, when healthy, have carved out a significant role with the Razorbacks. The other two are reserves: offensive lineman Marcus Henderson and tight end Collin Sutherland.

Arkansas Football Transfers Since Fall Camp

  • WR Jaquayln Crawford
  • DT Taylor Lewis
  • RB Javion Hunt
  • DB Chase Lowery
  • RB James Jointer Jr.
  • DB Myles Slusher
  • QB Malik Hornsby
  • TE Erin Outley
  • DB Jacorrei Turner
  • DB Khari Johnson
  • DE Eric Thomas Jr.
  • P Reid Bauer


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