Max Fletcher, Mike Woods Might Have Shared More Than Transfer Exits in Same Month

Max Fletcher, Mike Woods, Arkansas football, transfer portal, NIL
photo credit: Nick Wenger / Oklahoma Athletics

Arkansas football has received its first post-spring ball surprise, as Max Fletcher entered the transfer portal Thursday morning, according to multiple reports.

The punter from Australia is coming off a breakout season with the Razorbacks and was primed to be a potential preseason All-SEC selection heading into his junior campaign in 2024.

Instead, he became the fifth Arkansas player to enter the transfer portal during the spring window. The first four included two who weren’t with the team this spring — defensive end Jashaud Stewart and offensive lineman Andrew Chamblee — as well as two who appeared to be buried on the depth chart in running back Isaiah Augustave and quarterback Jacolby Criswell.

Considering his accolades and projected starting role, Fletcher is easily the most surprising departure since the end of spring ball. In fact, he may be the Razorbacks’ most surprising post-spring transfer since wide receiver Mike Woods left for Oklahoma in 2021.

It was speculated that Woods left for financial reasons and a source has indicated to Best of Arkansas Sports that NIL was also a factor in Fletcher’s decision.

Arkansas also had 15 scholarship transfer portal defections during the window immediately following the season, highlighted by quarterback KJ Jefferson (UCF), running back Rocket Sanders (South Carolina) and linebacker Chris Paul Jr. (Ole Miss).

Fletcher’s departure also opens up another scholarship for the Razorbacks. Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman now has eight open scholarships to fill for next year’s roster, a full breakdown of which can be found here.

Max Fletcher’s Career

Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, Max Fletcher is the son of Australian rules football legend Dustin Fletcher. Rather than follow in their father’s footsteps, Max and his brother, Mason, opted to play American football instead.

The Fletcher brothers both went through the ProKick Australia academy and it resulted in both of them playing major college football. Mason, who is a year older, signed with Cincinnati, while Max signed with the Razorbacks.

Max Fletcher battled for the starting job as a true freshman and beat out incumbent Reid Bauer to start the season. However, he struggled with consistency, averaging just 37.5 yards on 38 punts, and Bauer eventually took over the punting duties.

Following the 2022 season, though, Bauer transferred to Memphis. That meant Fletcher was the clear frontrunner to be the starting punter.

He showed massive improvement as a sophomore last year. Not only did his 46.9-yard average rank seventh nationally, but it was also the second-best mark in school history. Fletcher got great hang time, as well, averaging 4.13 seconds, according to Pro Football Focus, which ranked seventh nationally.

All of that contributed to him being the sixth-highest graded punter in all of college football with an 85.2 PFF grade. Two of the five players in front of him were Alabama’s James Burnip and Vanderbilt’s Matthew Hayball. Fletcher shared second-team All-SEC honors from the coaches with Burnip, with Hayball getting the first-team nod.

If he makes a similar jump between his sophomore and junior seasons as he did last offseason, it isn’t a stretch to think Fletcher could be one of the top punters in the country and in contention for the Ray Guy Award in 2024.

Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, if that happens, it will be with another team.

What it Means for Arkansas Football

At one point, it looked like Arkansas might have the best special teams unit in the country in 2024. In addition to Max Fletcher at punter, Cam Little was set to be a senior and arguably the best kicker in college football, not to mention the return of Vito Calvaruso as the Razorbacks’ kickoff ace and Isaiah Sategna as a dangerous return man.

Fast forward to after spring ball and Little is on the brink of becoming a rare true junior kicker taken in the NFL Draft and Fletcher is in the transfer portal. Calvaruso still has a strong leg for kickoffs, but he’s been inconsistent as a placekicker — as has Hawaii transfer Matthew Shipley. Sategna could still be the returner, but also figures to factor in more on offense next season, so Arkansas might give others a look.

As for the situation at punter, the starting punter will now almost certainly be Devin Bale. A walk-on transfer from FCS Northern Colorado, he was the backup last season, but never punted — despite Pittman claiming he was a legitimate option heading into the Texas A&M game.

Fletcher was clearly the better punter last year, based on what media saw in limited practice viewing periods, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case this spring.

Bale has looked really good and seemed to be actually pushing Fletcher for the starting job. That was especially evident in the Red-White game, when he booted punts of 62 and 61 yards with excellent hang time.

Granted, the wind was behind him and likely helped the distance on those, but that was true for Fletcher, as well, and his lone punt in the spring game went just 43 yards and didn’t get inside the 20-yard line.

Barring an addition from the transfer portal, it seems likely that Arkansas will give Bale the scholarship that had been taken up by Fletcher, especially considering that’d still leave seven other scholarships to use on other positions.

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More coverage of Arkansas football and the transfer portal from BoAS…

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