The Arkansas football team added to its transfer portal haul Friday afternoon when Lorando Johnson from Baylor announced his commitment.
Somewhat cryptically nicknamed “Snaxx,” Johnson is a 6-foot, 193-pound cornerback from Lancaster, Texas, who has two years of eligibility remaining. He made his decision not long after taking an official visit to check out the Razorbacks.
During his trip to Fayetteville, which he described as “real interesting” and “fun,” Johnson got a taste of the Arkansas fanbase by attending the top-25 showdown between the Razorbacks and Missouri at Bud Walton Arena.
Even though it was a different sport and students are still gone on Christmas break, he said it gave him an idea of the atmosphere he can expect at Reynolds Razorback Stadium next season.
It was apparently enough for him to become the fifth player to commit to Arkansas from the transfer portal this cycle, joining offensive lineman Joshua Braun from Florida, quarterback Jacolby Criswell from North Carolina, wide receiver Andrew Armstrong from Texas A&M-Commerce and defensive end John Morgan III from Pittsburgh.
That number is expected to grow in the coming days, as the Razorbacks have hosted or are scheduled to host several potential transfers between Wednesday and Sunday this week. One of those visitors is former South Florida linebacker Antonio Grier, who was actually announced by the UA as a signee, only to backtrack and announce a commitment date of Sunday.
Lorando Johnson at Baylor
A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Lorando Johnson was ranked as high as No. 252 overall by ESPN and originally committed to LSU early in the process.
He eventually backed off that pledge and signed with Baylor in the 2020 class, but was also pursued by Arkansas under the previous staff. Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State and Texas A&M were among the many Power Five programs that offered him, as well.
After redshirting his first year of college, Johnson established a role for himself as a redshirt freshman in 2021. An injury caused him to miss six games, but he still played 92 defensive and 50 special teams snaps.
That includes his first career start against Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, a game the Bears won 21-7. Johnson posted a solid 65.4 grade on 44 snaps in that game.
In his third season at Baylor, Johnson moved from nickel to cornerback and secured a spot in the starting lineup. He started all 12 regular-season games and earned a 75.0 PFF grade on 655 defensive snaps. That grade ranked seventh among the 23 Big 12 cornerbacks who played at least 500 snaps and was comparable to Dwight McGlothern (77.2), who arrived as a transfer from LSU in 2022, and Hudson Clark (77.0) at Arkansas.
Johnson was officially credited with 20 tackles — including 2 for loss and half a sack — and five pass breakups, plus a forced fumble, in 19 games with the Bears.
Because he redshirted in 2020, the pandemic-altered season that doesn’t count toward eligibility, Johnson could presumably still redshirt. That means he has three years left to play two seasons.
What it Means for Arkansas Football
It is not a secret that head coach Sam Pittman is hitting the portal hard for defensive backs.
The Razorbacks ranked dead last in the FBS in pass defense, allowing 294.7 yards through the air per game this season. That is also the most they’ve ever given up in school history.
On top of that, Arkansas is light on numbers in the secondary. Even with five defensive backs in the current signing class, the Razorbacks had only 14 scholarship defensive backs set to be on the 2023 roster, according to Best of Arkansas Sports’ projections.
That number assumes the return of LaDarrius Bishop, who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2 and would be a sixth-year super senior next season, and includes two others with minimal playing time at the college level in freshmen Anthony Brown and Jaylen Lewis.
There are six returners with at least some starting experience, but Arkansas is replacing five others who started games this year. Latavious Brini is out of eligibility, while Simeon Blair, Jalen Catalon, Khari Johnson and Myles Slusher entered the transfer portal.
Only three of the returning players are probably considered likely to start in 2023, but that does include Dwight McGlothern and Quincey McAdoo at cornerback — the position Lorando Johnson started at for Baylor this season. McGlothern, like Johnson, has his own mysterious nickname in “Nudie”). The other Razorback defensive back is Hudson Clark, who is expected to remain at safety after moving there mid-season.
Johnson does have playing experience at nickel for the Bears and was previously committed to LSU as a “nickel/safety,” so he could presumably play multiple spots in the secondary at Arkansas.
Of course, it’s also possible that McAdoo moves back to wide receiver after converting to defense midway through his freshman campaign. He had a lot of success at cornerback, though, so it remains to be seen what he does.
Even if Johnson doesn’t immediately win a starting job for the Razorbacks, he provides quality depth at a position that desperately needs it. Numerous injuries in the secondary contributed to Arkansas’ poor numbers in 2023.
Who’s Next from the Transfer Portal
The current transfer portal window closes Jan. 18, but that is just the deadline for players to enter. They can exit the portal — by committing to a new school or withdrawing — at any time.
However, in order to go through spring ball, transfers must enroll in classes pretty soon. At Arkansas, classes start Jan. 17.
With somewhere between 12-15 scholarships to fill on next year’s roster, it’s highly likely that Lorando Johnson is the first of many transfer commitments for the Razorbacks in the coming weeks.
In fact, he may not be the last defensive back from Baylor that Arkansas lands. Cornerback Mike Harris — who was committed to the Razorbacks at one point in high school — and safety Alfahiym Walcott are also among this week’s visitors.
As mentioned above, South Florida transfer linebacker Antonio Grier is scheduled to announce his final decision Sunday after visiting Fayetteville this week. He has already been announced as a signee by the UA, but has said he’s also still considering UCF.
Other visitors include defensive back DJ Taylor from Arizona State, tight end Jake Roberts from North Texas and a trio of wide receivers — Dont’e Thornton from Oregon, Xavier Weaver from South Florida and the most Elon Musk-friendly name in the the portal in Isaac TeSlaa from Division II Hillsdale College.
The Arkansas receiver who transferred to Baylor:
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