The honors continue to roll in for Drew Sanders following his lone season in the Arkansas football program.
A potential first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, all four of the NCAA-recognized All-America lists have included the talented linebacker on one of its teams.
While the FWAA, the AFCA, The Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation have tabbed him to their second teams, the Associated Press gave him a first-team nod.
The last time an Arkansas linebacker earned first-team All-America honors was 2001, when Jermaine Petty was a first-team pick by the AFCA. However, you have to go all the way back to the 1964 national championship season for the last time the Razorbacks had a linebacker get those honors from the AP. The legendary Ronnie Caveness did it that year.
Needless to say, it was a historic season in Fayetteville for Drew Sanders, who spent his first two seasons at Alabama before entering the transfer portal and landing at Arkansas.
The former five-star recruit won’t play in the Liberty Bowl, meaning his time with the Razorbacks lasted just 12 games, but his impact could be felt beyond that because he’s now viewed as a top prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft.
In fact, ESPN’s top two draft experts — Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay — each rank him as the best available inside linebacker.
McShay didn’t include him in his latest first-round mock draft, but does have Sanders listed among the five best prospects available for Day 2 of the draft, indicating he could be among the first 36 players selected.
That means Sanders will almost certainly be Arkansas’ highest drafted linebacker since at least 2001, when Quinton Caver went No. 55 overall to the Eagles, but he could sneak into the first round — something the Razorbacks haven’t had at his position since Billy Ray Smith Jr. went fifth overall in 1983.
There is very little debate that he is the best of Arkansas’ transfer portal additions since Sam Pittman took over the program following the 2019 season. Ranking the other 23 transfers is a bit more of a challenge, but Best of Arkansas Sports decided to give it a shot…
Ranking Arkansas Football Transfers Under Sam Pittman
*originally came to Arkansas as a walk-on
1. Drew Sanders — LB — Alabama
If the accolades listed above weren’t enough to convince you that Drew Sanders is best transfer of the past three cycles, just take a look at his numbers. In 12 games, he racked up 103 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 6 quarterback hurries, 5 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles, 1 interception and 1 fumble recovery.
The only other FBS player since 2000 who had at least 95 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, a fumble recover and an interception in a single season was Buffalo’s Khalil Mack in 2013. Sure, that’s a lot of qualifiers, but Mack went on to be the fifth overall pick and is an All-Pro performer in the NFL.
It’s also worth noting that Sanders’ 9.5 sacks are tied for seventh on the UA single-season list and were the most by an Arkansas player since Chris Smith had 9.5 sacks a decade earlier, in 2012.
2. Feleipe Franks — QB — Florida
A former top-100 recruit, Feleipe Franks had an up-and-down career at Florida before his 2019 season was cut short by injury. That opened the door for eventual Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask, so he hit the portal.
One of the first tasks Sam Pittman and Kendal Briles had at Arkansas was solidifying a quarterback position that had seen five different players start the final five games of 2019 and eight different players start over the previous two seasons — none with much success.
It ended up as a perfect match for both parties. Even though the Razorbacks went 3-7, they restored pride in and respect for the program in Pittman’s first season and Franks had a lot to do with it. He threw for 2,107 yards, 17 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions in nine games, plus broke the 41-year-old school record for single-season completion percentage, completing 68.5% of his passes.
Perhaps even more importantly, Franks was a mentor for KJ Jefferson, allowing him to develop and learn the system before taking over as Arkansas’ full-time starter. He was critical in getting him ready for a spot start at Missouri that season and Jefferson has credited Franks for preparing him for his breakout 2021 season.
3. John Ridgeway — DT — Illinois State
After three productive seasons at the FCS level, John Ridgeway entered the transfer portal and was immediately pursued by several Power Five programs. With Jonathan Marshall leaving, Arkansas had a need for a big, strong defensive tackle. Once again, it was a perfect match.
He likely would have started every game for the Razorbacks, but Ridgeway needed an appendectomy a week before the season and missed the opener. He came off the bench against Texas and asserted himself as a legitimate NFL prospect with a dominant performance.
That was the start of a strong season in which he made 39 tackles, including 4 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but he was a focal point of Arkansas’ three-man front and did enough to become a fifth-round pick by the Cowboys. Claimed off waivers by Washington, he’s now part of the Commanders’ defensive line rotation as a rookie.
4. Matt Landers — WR — Toledo/Georgia
Much like the first three guys on this list, Matt Landers played a major position of need for the Razorbacks, who were not only replacing Treylon Burks, but also super seniors Tyson Morris and De’Vion Warren.
He was coming off a scorching hot end to 2021, catching 18 passes for 486 yards — a whopping 27-yard average — and five touchdowns over Toledo’s five games, but it was his time at Georgia that helped the Razorbacks land his services for his super senior season. He played for the Bulldogs for four years, the first three of which overlapped with Sam Pittman’s tenure.
Although he had to battle for it as a summer arrival, Landers eventually won a starting job and is sitting at 44 receptions entering the Liberty Bowl. His 780 yards and seven touchdowns are both team highs and with a solid outing against Kansas — 115 or more yards — he’d crack the UA’s single-season top-10 list.
5. Jadon Haselwood — WR — Oklahoma
As good as Landers has been, it was Jadon Haselwood who was expected to be Treylon Burks’ main replacement. He was a five-star recruit who the Razorbacks quickly landed from the portal with the help of running backs coach Jimmy Smith, who coached him in high school.
Lofty expectations will probably hurt how he’s remembered by Arkansas football fans, but Haselwood was very good in his lone season in Fayetteville. He caught at least three passes in every game and finished with 59, which ranks eighth on the UA single-season receptions list. Those catches went for 702 yards and three touchdowns.
6. Jordan Domineck — DE — Georgia Tech
Another late addition to the their 2022 transfer portal haul, Jordan Domineck was an important get for the Razorbacks because they had to replace their entire starting defensive line. He was more experienced than the other defensive end they had already landed (Landon Jackson), but it was still unknown how big of an impact he might make.
It was an inauspicious start, as his first two practices in fall camp were pretty rough, but Domineck eventually earned a spot in the defensive line rotation and finished second on the team behind only Drew Sanders with 6.5 sacks this season, despite never starting a game and playing fewer snaps than others.
There’s a chance he could climb this list over the next year because he has already announced his intention to return as a super senior in 2023.
7. Dwight McGlothern — CB — LSU
The Razorbacks had an underrated shutdown cornerback in Montaric Brown during the 2021 season and needed another one this year because he chose not to play as a super senior. After visiting Fayetteville as a heralded recruit, Dwight McGlothern eventually made his way to Arkansas to fill that very role.
Although he got a lot of first-team reps during the spring, the LSU transfer spent most of fall camp with the third unit. However, when push came to shove, he was in the starting lineup against Cincinnati and played nearly 93% of the defensive snaps this season.
With an interception in three of Arkansas’ first five games, McGlothern landed on some midseason All-American lists, but he didn’t have any more the rest of the year. He finished with 42 tackles, nine pass breakups and two forced fumbles to go along with the three interceptions.
McGlothern is another transfer who could improve his position on this list if he chooses to play his senior season with the Razorbacks. There has been some speculation that he might enter the NFL Draft, but he has yet to make an announcement one way or the other.
8. Tre Williams — DE — Missouri
After managing only 14 sacks in the 10-game 2020 season, which was tied for last in the SEC, Arkansas put an emphasis on getting after the quarterback that offseason and found a pass-rusher in Tre Williams.
He had shown glimpses of his four-star talent during a five-year tenure at Missouri, where he was recruited by and played for former Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom, and did so again in Fayetteville — but it was an up-and-down season.
Williams was particularly dominant against Texas A&M, playing a key role in the Razorbacks snapping their nine-game losing streak against the Aggies, and finished the year with a team-high 36 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. He did not play in the Outback Bowl, choosing to opt out a few hours after a DWI arrest in the weeks leading up to the bowl.
9. Latavious Brini — DB — Georgia
Despite starting 10 games for one of college football’s best defenses of all-time at Georgia in 2021, Latavious Brini saw his playing time fall off down the stretch and decided to enter the transfer portal to use his final season of eligibility.
With Greg Brooks Jr. and Joe Foucha leaving for LSU, the Razorbacks had a need at both nickel and safety, so he chose to reunite with Sam Pittman in Fayetteville. Injuries throughout the year made his addition even more important and he ended up playing the fifth-most defensive snaps on the team.
A sure tackler in the secondary, Brini enters the Liberty Bowl with 52 tackles, including four for a loss. He also has a forced fumble, quarterback hurry, pass breakup and interception, plus two fumble recoveries.
10. Landon Jackson — DE — LSU
As a heralded recruit coming out of Pleasant Grove High in Texarkana, Texas, Landon Jackson considered Arkansas before ultimately signing with LSU. Given a second chance, the Razorbacks landed him out of the transfer portal after he spent one season with the Tigers.
His freshman season was cut short by a torn ACL, which led to him missing spring ball and getting off to a bit of a slow start as he knocked the rust off. However, Jackson still started six games and played more snaps than any other defensive lineman, finishing with 21 tackles, three sacks, two quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
Being healthy for a full offseason could be huge for the former four-star prospect, as he’s yet to have that. If he can live up to the potential he showed before getting hurt his senior year of high school, Jackson has an excellent chance to vault up this list.
11. *Warren Thompson — WR — Florida State
Thanks to his relationship with offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, Warren Thompson — a former top-100 recruit — came to Arkansas as a walk-on last summer. He eventually earned a scholarship before the season and became a contributor over the next two seasons.
However, Thompson had an up-and-down tenure with the Razorbacks. He caught a touchdown as time expired against Ole Miss, but also dropped three would-be touchdowns against UAPB last season. This year, Sam Pittman hyped him up during fall camp for improved consistency, but the breakout never happened.
There were good moments, such as his 56-yard touchdown against Texas A&M, but Thompson caught only 12 passes for 178 yards and two scores before leaving the team with two games remaining in the regular season. He has since re-entered the transfer portal and will play his super senior season elsewhere.
12. *Jake Bates — K — Texas State
Perhaps no one on this list has had a journey quite like Jake Bates. A former soccer player at UCA, he switched to football and spent a semester at Arkansas before transferring to Texas State, where he became the Bobcats’ kickoff specialist.
With one year of eligibility remaining, Bates hit the transfer portal again and rejoined the Razorbacks, who were looking for a replacement for Vito Calvaruso. It was big shoes to fill, and he had to beat out placekicker Cam Little, but Bates was arguably better in that role than Calvaruso.
He finished second nationally with an 85.3% touchback rate on kickoffs and earned first-team All-SEC honors from the coaches. (It was the first time kickoff specialists and long snappers have been recognized on All-SEC teams.)
13. Ty’Kieast Crawford — OL — Charlotte
The Razorbacks’ drought of four-star offensive linemen after Sam Pittman’s initial departure appeared to be coming to an end in 2020, but Ty’Kieast Crawford decommitted during the ugly 2019 season and ended up at Charlotte because of academic concerns.
A year later, though, he made his way to Fayetteville via the transfer portal and has been part of Arkansas’ two-deep on the offensive line the last two seasons. This year, he was the Razorbacks’ sixth man, going into the game whenever there was an injury.
Considering he’s played only 142 offensive snaps since coming to Arkansas, this may seem like a bit of a high ranking, but Sam Pittman has been high on him and there’s a good chance he moves into a starting role next year. How he plays would dictate where he ends up finishing on this list.
14. Terry Hampton — DT — Arkansas State
15. Markell Utsey — DL — Missouri
16. Xavier Kelly — DT — Clemson
We’re grouping these players together because they were eerily similar in that they were each one-year guys — Kelly in 2020, Utsey in 2021 and Hampton in 2022 — and played quite a bit, but didn’t produce very much on the field.
Hampton got the nod because he had the best Pro Football Focus grade at 62.9. Mostly a backup, he did start a couple games in the middle of the year and enters the Liberty Bowl with 23 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one pass breakup in 12 games.
Kelly was also a rotational piece and got similar reps as Hampton, but he notched just eight tackles, one sack and two quarterback hurries in nine games. Pro Football Focus game him a 56.8 grade.
Even though he had the worst PFF grade of the trio (52.8), Utsey gets credit for being versatile enough to play both defensive tackle in the Razorbacks’ four-man fronts and defensive end in their three-man fronts. That kept him on the field a lot more than the other two, but despite the extra reps, he still managed only 14 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, four quarterback hurries and one pass breakup.
17. A.J. Reed — K — Duke
One of special teams coordinator Scott Fountain’s first tasks at Arkansas was finding a replacement for Connor Limpert, the most accurate field goal kicker in UA history at the time. He found his man in A.J. Reed, who was coming off a breakout season at Duke in which he made 15 of 18 field goals and all 34 PATs.
In his lone season with the Razorbacks, though, he wasn’t quite as effective — albeit with fewer opportunities. He made 7 of 11 field goals, including a long of 48 yards, and missed two of his 29 PATs. Vito Calvaruso primarily handled the duties, but Reed also kicked off four times. None of them were touchbacks and one went out of bounds.
18. Jerry Jacobs — CB — Arkansas State
In an unusual move, Jerry Jacobs went from one corner of the state to the other following the 2019 season, transferring from Arkansas State to Arkansas. A former two-star recruit, he earned a starting job in 2020.
However, after a solid start to the year, he got banged and his replacement — walk-on Hudson Clark — became a national story when he made three interceptions against Ole Miss. The Razorbacks kept him in the starting lineup and, rather than compete to get his job back, Jacobs opted out of the rest of the season.
It was a decision he later admitted to regretting and had he stuck around, he’d probably be higher on this list, but it worked out for him because he ended up making the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent. He started nine games as a rookie before being sidelined by a torn ACL last year and, although it took about half of the season, he’s now back in the starting lineup as a second-year cornerback in Detroit.
19. *Cade Fortin — QB — South Florida/North Carolina
When Malik Hornsby entered the transfer portal the first time, Arkansas found itself in a pretty dire situation when it came to quarterback depth. Even when he returned to the team, the Razorbacks were still down to two scholarship quarterbacks in 2022 because Lucas Coley left midway through spring ball.
With Kade Renfro still out with a torn ACL, Arkansas would have been in a tough spot if it wasn’t for landing Cade Fortin as a walk-on transfer. He was originally a scholarship quarterback at North Carolina and South Florida, starting a pair of games at both schools.
It was his progression this offseason that allowed the Razorbacks to experiment with Hornsby at wide receiver and he actually overtook him as the backup at one point, starting the Mississippi State game. However, in limited opportunities, Fortin didn’t exactly play very well, completing just 14 of 29 passes (48.3%) for 135 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
20. Jaquayln Crawford — WR — Oklahoma
Had the one-time transfer rule been around a couple years earlier, Jaquayln Crawford’s career with the Razorbacks might have turned out differently. Instead, he had to sit out the 2020 season after transferring in from Oklahoma.
The former four-star recruit was actually going to get to debut in the Texas Bowl thanks to a quirky rule change following the regular season, but that game was canceled because of COVID-19 issues within the TCU program.
That proved to be the closest Crawford got to significant playing time with the Razorbacks. He was buried on the depth chart in 2021 and caught just three passes for 27 yards, with his most notable play being a dropped touchdown that would have prevented the shutout at Georgia. Crawford entered the transfer portal again during fall camp.
21. Trent Gordon — DB — Penn State
A former four-star recruit capable of playing multiple spots in the secondary, Trent Gordon has been a steady presence on the Razorbacks’ depth chart the last two years. However, that hasn’t translated to playing time.
Injuries kept him off the field entirely for a stretch last season, when he got just eight total defensive snaps, and then he couldn’t find a spot in the defensive backfield this year despite numerous injuries. In fact, it took about five guys going down before he got a decent number of reps against Mississippi State and BYU.
Even with those games, Gordon has played only 121 defensive snaps. On the positive side, he has had a pretty heavy special teams role, playing on five different units at various points of the year. He could return as a super senior in 2023, but it’s unlikely he’ll be a factor defensively.
22. *Kade Renfro — QB — Ole Miss
Despite being on scholarship at Ole Miss, Kade Renfro transferred to Arkansas as a walk-on. Grabbing a player of his caliber without a scholarship was a boost to the quarterback room.
There was some speculation throughout 2021 that he might push Malik Hornsby for the backup job in 2022, but a torn ACL during bowl practices prevented that from even being a possibility. It also led to the Razorbacks bringing in the aforementioned Cade Fortin as another walk-on transfer.
Unfortunately, not long after returning to full strength, Renfro tore his ACL again at practice.
23. Levi Draper — LB — Oklahoma
A former four-star recruit, Levi Draper began his college career in his home state at Oklahoma and played mostly special teams in three seasons with the Sooners before leaving.
The Razorbacks brought him in with hopes that he could fill a need at linebacker. Instead, a pair of shoulder surgeries kept him off the field for all but 12 special teams snaps in the 2020 opener and then another shoulder injury happened in fall camp on the first day he was moved to tight end.
24. George Caratan — P — Michigan
Special teams coordinator Scott Fountain’s hand-picked punter for his first season at Arkansas, George Caratan came to Fayetteville after two seasons as a walk-on at Michigan. He was placed on scholarship and won the starting job to open 2020.
Although he averaged 45.4 yards on 16 punts, it was mostly a disastrous start to the season for Caratan. He had two punts blocked and lost the job after only three games. In fact, he was relegated to third string, as a pair of walk-ons traveled the rest of the season.
Caratan’s final appearance in an Arkansas uniform is what lands him at the bottom of this list. Not only did he have a punt blocked against Auburn that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, but he also botched an extra point as the holder. That latter play ended up costing the Razorbacks three points because it led to them trying — and failing — two-point conversions after their next two touchdowns. Arkansas lost that game 30-28.
More coverage of Arkansas football and the transfer portal from BoAS…