The outdoorsy amongst us have heard tales about fishing trips that resulted in releasing smaller fish to make room for bigger ones in the live well. However, this kind of thing happens more as a metaphor in the world of recruiting than it does in real life. That’s effectively what has happened for the Arkansas football team, at least when it comes to its secondary.
Earlier in March, the Hogs signed one of the most highly sought after players left in the transfer portal in cornerback Jaheim Singletary.
With the exception of Jalen Catalon, who had only played in one of the last 20 games due to injuries, and Myles Slusher, who was arrested on Dickson Street before he decided to transfer, a strong argument could’ve been made that before signing Singletary, the talent level of personnel transferring to Arkansas already outweighed the talent level of the multitudes who left after the 2022 season.
Arkansas Football Reloads in the Secondary
That argument got a lot stronger with the addition of the 6-foot-2 Singletary, a five-star recruit coming out of high school who spent his first season at Georgia. And unlike many transfers who come in to play for one swansong season, Singletary will have four years of eligibility at Arkansas because he redshirted in 2022. If he doesn’t play four seasons at Arkansas, it will likely be to go to the NFL Draft, which will mean a lot of good occurred between now and then.
Singletary will arrive onto the Arkansas campus as the sixth-highest recruit/transfer to play for the Razorbacks in the last 23 years, just outside of a top 5 including the likes of Darren McFadden, Drew Sanders and Ahmad Carroll. Sure, he made more interceptions (14) in high school than he saw plays on the field (13) for Georgia as a freshman, but that’s more a reflection of Georgia’s enviable depth than it is an indictment on Singletary’s ability at the collegiate level.
There’s plenty more talent wading into the pond as well. The 2023 Arkansas secondary features more highly talented blue-chip recruits including Baylor transfers Lorando Johnson and Alfahiym Walcott, and four-star freshmen TJ Metcalf and Jaylon Braxton.
Considering what they are replacing, the Hogs should be looking at a fairly dramatic turnaround. A slew of Arkansas defensive backs transferred out of a program that ranked 124th out of 131 in total defense. The back end of that defense was a BIG reason for that embarrassing ranking. The secondary turned in an even more embarrassing, dead last ranking of No. 131 in passing yards allowed.
Whether that ranking was due to players not living up to their billing, injuries, coaching or a combination of the three, the only true bright spots from the 2022 secondary remaining are embodied in Dwight McGlothern (52 tackles, 4 interceptions) and Quincy McAdoo (30 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 sack), the latter of whom proved the lack of talent in the secondary by converting from wide receiver to cornerback at mid-season and rolled up those stats in just five games. Both became the secondary’s most consistent performers by the end of the year.
Gains Outweigh Losses for the Razorbacks
Keeping with the fishing metaphor, consider the prospect of allowing Boston College to pluck Khari Johnson out of your live well. Singletary may have been on Boston College’s radar, but you would have a hard time convincing me that it was on his. Johnson had 25 tackles on the season, which is five fewer than Quincy McAdoo had in five games after converting from wide receiver.
Keuan Parker made one tackle this season and is headed to Tulsa. Trent Gordon had 14 tackles on the season, but was declared academically ineligible for the Liberty Bowl before entering the transfer portal.
None of us want to trample over a man’s grave, but most of the defensive backs the Hogs have lost can’t really be considered a great loss when you factor in the players who are replacing them.
It’s true that the Hogs have nowhere to go but up in the secondary. However, even a secondary ranked in the top 20 would welcome multiple four- and five-star newcomers. This is especially true when a couple of them already have proven college experience in a Power 5 conference. Indeed, Walcott has played in 32 college games, but will have two years of eligibility if he decides to use his COVID super senior season in 2024. Lorando Johnson also started 12 games at Baylor.
Credit co-defensive coordinator Marcus Woodson and defensive backs coach Deron Wilson for luring Jaheim Singletary to a program not known for lock-down pass defense.
Woodson’s Florida State secondary last year ranked fourth in the country in pass defense. That doesn’t happen by accident. While not eye-popping at No. 84 in passing yards allowed, to Wilson’s credit, the Florida secondary he helped coach outperformed the rest of the defense, which ranked No. 97 in total defense.
The Hogs have had many very good defensive backs over the years. Some of them, like Kamren Curl, went on to greater things in the NFL than they ever did in college. It’s obviously far too early to rank the new Arkansas defensive backs who have yet to play a game for the Hogs, but they have a collective resume that is more impressive than possibly any other group of Arkansas defenders on the same team in memory and as a rare five-star, Singletary pumps up that resume the most.
Not many years ago, the Arkansas faithful would’ve felt pretty good about an entire team with as many four- and five-star prospects as the Razorbacks will have in just one position room — something unimaginable in Hog country until now.
Signing Singletary only shows that Pittman has found a way to gain momentum at a time when excitement about the Razorback defense was losing steam.
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