The transfer portal, coupled with the elimination of annual signing limits, has enabled teams across the country – including the Arkansas football program – to overhaul their rosters this offseason.
It hasn’t been as extreme as Deion Sanders at Colorado, but Sam Pittman has changed what the Razorbacks will look like in 2023 by bringing in 18 scholarship transfers.
While wide receiver and tight end will look completely different this coming season, the impact of the transfer portal will be most felt on the defensive side of the ball.
Not only did Arkansas land players at all three levels, but it brought in 11 transfers perfectly distributed in a way that they could conceivably form a defense with no one being out of position.
It’s highly unlikely this unit would ever see the field together, but Pittman and new defensive coordinator Travis Williams *could* run with this all-transfer defense:
- DE: John Morgan III (Pittsburgh)
- DT: Anthony Booker Jr. (Maryland)
- DT: Keivie Rose (Louisiana Tech)
- DE: Trajan Jeffcoat (Missouri)
- LB: Antonio Grier (South Florida)
- LB: Jaheim Thomas (Cincinnati)
- NB: Lorando Johnson (Baylor)
- CB: Jaheim Singletary (Georgia)
- S: Alfahiym Walcott (Baylor)
- S: A.J. Brathwaite Jr. (Western Kentucky)
- CB: Kee’yon Stewart (TCU)
While all 11 transfers may not be on the field together, there’s a very good chance most – if not all – of them crack the Razorbacks’ rotation and see the field at some point.
Projecting where each of them will end up in the depth chart is extremely difficult at this point, especially considering only four of them went through spring ball, but we gave it our best shot anyway…
(Check out our projected three-deep depth chart for Arkansas’ offense by clicking here.)
Arkansas Football Depth Chart — Defensive Line
|DE||Landon Jackson||Jashaud Stewart||John Morgan III|
|DT||Taurean Carter||Eric Gregory||Marcus Miller|
|DT||Cameron Ball||Anthony Booker Jr.||Keivie Rose|
|DE||Trajan Jeffcoat||Zach Williams||Nico Davillier|
Sam Pittman was open about his desire to add another pass rusher via the transfer portal even before the departure of Jordan Domineck. When he left, it just increased the need at the position and Arkansas addressed it by adding two veteran defensive ends – John Morgan III from Pittsburgh and Trajan Jeffcoat from Missouri.
Morgan was a steady producer over the last few years for the Panthers, while Jeffcoat was a former All-SEC performer whose play had dipped in recent seasons. Both should factor into the rotation, but based on comments by Pittman during the spring, it sounds like Jeffcoat flashed the most – so much so that we’ve got him projected to start.
He’ll bookend the defensive line with a former transfer in Landon Jackson, who joined the team from LSU last offseason. A heralded recruit coming out of high school, a torn ACL ended his freshman campaign with the Tigers and might have played a role in his somewhat quiet first year with the Razorbacks. Now another year removed from the injury, Jackson seems primed for a breakout season.
A duo of homegrown defensive ends with starting experience – Zach Williams and Jashaud Stewart – are slotted behind them as backups, while another in-state standout, Nico Davillier, is a third-teamer along with Morgan. Davillier was a coveted four-star recruit and is just a sophomore who will be getting his first experience on defense this year after playing primarily special teams last season. It’s also worth noting that he’s shifted back outside after moving in to defensive tackle as a true freshman.
With new defensive coordinator Travis Williams bringing with him a four-man front that requires two players at the position, instead of the one needed in Barry Odom’s three-man front, defensive tackle was another major point of emphasis this offseason – especially considering the graduation of Terry Hampton and departure of Isaiah Nichols via the transfer portal.
Luckily for the Razorbacks, Taurean Carter has healed from the torn ACL he suffered at the very end of spring ball in 2022. At the time of the injury, he was playing as well as anyone. It remains to be seen if he’ll be as explosive upon his return. It was difficult to tell in the spring, but if he does, he could be a force on the interior of the defensive line. Listing him as a starter is more of a projection based on last spring rather than what we saw this March and April.
Assuming he recovers from the high ankle sprain that kept him out of the last couple weeks of spring ball, Cameron Ball may be the safest bet to start. As a redshirt freshman, he actually graded out much higher on Pro Football Focus (70.5) than Hampton (63.1) and Nichols (55.1).
Permanently moving inside, Eric Gregory is the most experienced defensive lineman on the team, with 1,226 career defensive snaps, and his PFF grade has steadily ticked up the last few years, so he could also push for a starting job if Carter and/or Ball aren’t the same.
Having produced at Maryland and Louisiana Tech, respectively, Anthony “Tank” Booker Jr. and Keivie Rose will also factor into what could be a five-man rotation. We have Booker slotted ahead of Rose for now simply because of the fact he comes from the Big Ten rather than Conference USA.
Veteran Marcus Miller, redshirt freshman JJ Hollingsworth and true freshman Ian Geffrard will likely be depth pieces who don’t see much playing time barring injury.
Defensive Depth Chart — Linebacker
|LB||Chris Paul Jr.||Jordan Crook||Mani Powell|
|LB||Antonio Grier||Jaheim Thomas||Carson Dean|
One of the few locks on defense is that Chris Paul Jr. will start at one of the two linebacker spots. With Bumper Pool battling injuries, he got a lot of reps as a redshirt freshman last year and flashed the potential to be an All-SEC linebacker. During the spring, he also displayed some leadership qualities, which is a necessity at his position.
Who starts alongside Paul is still up in the air. We’re going with Antonio Grier because of his experience, with 1,810 career defensive snaps and All-AAC honors at South Florida. The sixth-year super senior is the old man of the linebacker room and should provide some vital leadership, as well.
However, it isn’t a stretch to think that Jordan Crook cracks the lineup as a sophomore — he played much more than Paul did as a true freshman, after all — or that Jaheim Thomas quickly climbs the depth chart upon his arrival in Fayetteville, as he is a former four-star recruit who was starting to really come on at Cincinnati last year.
Those four guys will probably take the bulk of the linebacker snaps in 2023, but Mani Powell could take a step forward with a fully healthy offseason and Carson Dean has drawn quite a bit of praise from the coaching staff since enrolling early and going through spring ball.
Defensive Depth Chart — Secondary
|NB||Jayden Johnson||Jaylen Lewis||Dallas Young|
|CB||Dwight McGlothern||Jaheim Singletary||LaDarrius Bishop|
|S||Alfahiym Walcott||AJ Brathwaite Jr.||Christian Ford|
|S||Hudson Clark||Malik Chavis||T.J. Metcalf|
|CB||Lorando Johnson||Kee’yon Stewart||Jaylon Braxton|
With three transfer defensive backs not arriving until this summer and another missing the spring because of injury, the secondary might be the most difficult position to project on the entire roster.
Dwight McGlothern is a lock to start at one of the cornerback spots, as he was a starter last year and has All-SEC potential. Until about a month ago, Quincey McAdoo figured to be a major factor at corner after moving to the position midway through last year and still landing on the SEC All-Freshman Team. However, recent comments by Sam Pittman seem to indicate that it’s highly unlikely he’ll be healthy enough to play this year after being involved in a serious car accident.
That opens the door for Lorando Johnson to start opposite McGlothern. The Baylor transfer got a lot of first-team work during the spring and looked very capable of starting, but having McAdoo back initially had us projecting him to slide inside to nickel – a spot he also worked at some this spring. That could still happen, depending on the development of Georgia transfer Jaheim Singletary and TCU transfer Kee’yon Stewart.
That said, Singletary has played just 13 career defensive snaps – meaning he’s far less experienced than previous five-star transfers Drew Sanders and Jadon Haselwood, who were immediate contributors – and Stewart was hampered by injuries and mostly a reserve at TCU the last few years after starting as a freshman. If just one of them could emerge as a starter, it’d give Arkansas the flexibility to move Johnson to nickel.
Instead, we are projecting another Johnson – Jayden Johnson – to move to nickel. It’s not really a prediction we feel super confident about, but he’s started at the position in the past and Arkansas might not be ready to turn the position over to redshirt freshman Jaylen Lewis, who is more of a true nickel.
It’s also possible that someone like Alfahiym Walcott or Hudson Clark end up moving to nickel, but Walcott earned All-Big 12 honors as a safety at Baylor and Clark showed some potential to be a solid safety after moving there midway through last season. That’s why they’re currently projected as the starting safeties.
Western Kentucky AJ Brathwaite Jr. could provide some quality depth, but leaning on him as a starter might be a bit of a stretch considering he was originally set to transfer to FIU before flipping to Arkansas. Fifth-year senior Malik Chavis has bounced back and forth between corner and safety, with the latter being his current position, so he could also be a depth piece capable of filling in as a starter when/if needed.
Similar to the offensive line, Arkansas will figure out how to get its best five defensive backs on the field at the same time, even if it means moving guys around to different positions – and that will be sorted out during fall camp.
Check out our projection of Arkansas football’s offensive depth chart here:
More coverage of Arkansas football and the transfer portal from BoAS…