The transfer portal has slowed to a trickle since the flood gates closed last month, but there is still an occasional entrant or two and Arkansas football is on the lookout for more potential additions.
One such player just popped up and the Razorbacks have already thrown their hat into the ring, offering Maryland offensive lineman Mason Lunsford on Tuesday.
Although the portal window closed to the general college football population on Jan. 18 and won’t open again until April 15-30, there is an exception that allows graduate transfers to enter at any point. That is how Lunsford, who announced his intentions Saturday morning, was able to put his name in the portal this week.
It’s also worth noting that those windows apply only to players entering the portal. Transfers can commit to new schools whenever they like, which is why places like Arkansas are still actively looking for players.
A low three-star recruit coming out of Good Counsel, a private high school in Olney, Md., Lunsford developed into a starter for the Terrapins the last two years — when his offensive coordinator just so happened to be Dan Enos.
That would seemingly give the Razorbacks an in with Lunsford, as Enos was hired as Kendal Briles’ replacement about a month ago. There’s another connection that could potentially help, as well, in the form of preferred walk-on transfer Tommy Varhall.
Prior to enrolling at Arkansas this semester, Varhall was a walk-on offensive lineman at Maryland, so he and Lunsford spent time together in position meetings and practice.
So far, the Razorbacks’ competition for Lunsford includes a pair of Power Five programs in Houston and Louisville, plus Group of Five foes Charlotte, Buffalo, James Madison and Tulane. All seven of his reported offers came during a one-hour span Tuesday afternoon.
Even though he’ll be a fifth-year senior in 2023, Lunsford can play two more years of college football because of the eligibility relief granted by the NCAA in response to the pandemic in 2020.
Mason Lunsford as a Possible Fit for Arkansas Football
Listed at 6-foot-7, 305 pounds, Mason Lunsford was originally recruited as a tackle, but slid inside early in his career for depth purposes.
The move paid off relatively quickly, as he actually started Maryland’s season finale as a redshirt freshman in 2020. That start came at right guard. Lunsford flipped over to left guard in 2021 and started 23 of 26 games at that spot the last two years.
Of his 1,627 career offensive snaps, more than 96% of them have been at left guard, according to Pro Football Focus. He earned a solid 63.7 grade on 899 snaps in 2021 and improved it to 64.6 on 651 snaps this past season.
That kind of experience and production, especially given the connection with Dan Enos, should not be ignored by an Arkansas football team needing to overhaul its offensive line for the first time in a couple of years.
The Razorbacks must replace three of their five starters up front, as center Ricky Stromberg declared for the NFL Draft, right tackle Dalton Wagner exhausted his eligibility and left tackle Luke Jones opted to move on rather than return as a super senior.
That leaves the two guards, but there’s no guarantee Beaux Limmer and Brady Latham will remain at their current positions. Limmer is already expect to shift over to center, as he did in the Liberty Bowl, and Latham is a candidate to slide over to left tackle.
The Razorbacks have already added one interior offensive lineman from the transfer portal in Joshua Braun from Florida, but it wouldn’t hurt to add another with extensive starting experience in the Power Five.
In fact, Sam Pittman has openly discussed his desire to add another interior guy, but preferably one capable of snapping the ball. On top of losing Stromberg, backup center Marcus Henderson entered the transfer portal and Jones was a backup center option, as well.
It’s unknown whether Lunsford would check that box. He’s never played center in a game, according to PFF, but who knows if he got reps at the position in practice. Even if he hasn’t, Pittman and offensive line coach Cody Kennedy could teach him the skill or, quite frankly, still pursue another backup center in the transfer portal.
As things currently stand, the Razorbacks have nine scholarships open for 2023 and that number would grow if they lose any players during the spring portal window. There are a few positions Pittman is hoping to fill with those spots, but Arkansas could presumably stand to use two of them on offensive linemen if it so desired.
Here’s a quick interview with Mason Lunsford from last fall:
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