FAYETTEVILLE — Even after doubling the size of its transfer portal haul since the early signing period, Arkansas football is not yet done bringing in new players.
The Razorbacks put the finishing touches on their 20-man high school class by officially signing tight end Shamar Easter on Wednesday, the first day of the traditional signing period.
They also announced the addition of five transfers who have already enrolled and will go through spring ball, giving Arkansas 10 total transfers. However, head coach Sam Pittman said he still has room to add nine more for 2023.
His numbers match up with Best of Arkansas Sports’ roster projection for next season.
“There’s 85 scholarships and we’re at 76,” Pittman said. “Once you get to 76, if you look at it as an NFL pattern, they’re at 53 and they seem to be able to get pretty good players out there, so I think right now would be the best players available.”
While he said the plan is to target the best available, it does sound like the Razorbacks have an idea of how to divvy up their remaining scholarships.
On the offensive side of the ball, Arkansas is set at quarterback and running back, but the other positions could stand to add more. Despite already bringing in three wide receivers, Pittman said he’d be open to adding another “dynamic one.”
He would also like to add an “older” tight end and another offensive lineman — specifically one who can play center because they lost Ricky Stromberg, Luke Jones and Marcus Henderson from last year’s team.
“I’d like to look at another guy that can snap the ball,” Pittman said. “We’ve got to find maybe one more. In losing guys last year, a bunch of those guys could snap. Obviously Ricky played center, but Jones could snap.”
Defensively, the Razorbacks need another interior defensive lineman and linebacker simply from a depth perspective.
They signed six high school defensive backs and have added a pair of transfers from Baylor, but Pittman said Arkansas “certainly would entertain others there.”
Even including that influx of players, the Razorbacks are set to have only 15 scholarship defensive backs next season because of the mass exodus this offseason that saw 11 players in the secondary transfer out.
“For me, it’s about what’s best for the roster, and that’s for Coach Pittman to decide,” co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Marcus Woodson said. “When it comes to Coach Wilson and myself, we’re going to be prepared with the guys that can help us win in the secondary that are available. At the end of the day, I’ll add all nine to the secondary if he allows that, and we’re going to have the guys in position where we can do it.”
Sam Pittman Press Conference Updates
Head coach Sam Pittman met with reporters for about 20 minutes Wednesday afternoon to discuss the newest Razorbacks — both players (high school signees/transfers) and coaches.
Here are some updates from that interview…
- On his new assistants: They’re outstanding men, outstanding coaches. I’m really honored they chose to come to Arkansas and coach with me.
- On the newest player additions: Since we last talked, we’ve added three guys on offense and three guys on defense. We’ve signed 20 high school players. I believe that should be our minimum. Times change – the portal window and things like that – but we still need to recruit high school players. We’ve signed 10 transfers so far and we have nine scholarships still remaining. 12 high school kids are here and eight will be here this summer. All of the transfers are here.
- On the Hogs landing all of their in-state targets: Our No. 1 goal each year is to keep everyone we’ve offered in the state. We’ve done that pretty well. Our high school coaches in the state are tremendous to us. We want to be good to them, as well. When the fourth quarter comes, it means a little bit more to a guy who’s been born and raised an Arkansas fan. Seems like there’s even more in next year’s class.
- On his pursuit of Dan Enos: As soon as I found out there was interest in Coach Briles to leave – maybe 3 or 5 or 10 minutes after that (is when I reached out to Enos). I’ve had respect for Dan Enos for a long, long time. He was my boss last time. I was very comfortable working for him and I hope he feels the same about me.
- On Dan Enos’ offensive scheme: Offensively, Dan has always – here, at Alabama, at Maryland – ran an offense around his personnel and their talents. That starts at the quarterback positions. He knew what we had and we’re going to use KJ’s abilities to the fullest. Since he left Arkansas, he’s been in multiple offensive philosophies, so I think he can and will adjust.
- On his new defensive assistants: When I interviewed Travis Williams, I knew he was the guy. … You better have good recruiters and recruiters are usually good people. I thought Marcus Woodson is one of the best DB coaches in America and he’s a better man. He’s a recruiting machine. Deron Wilson comes from a family of a coach, a well-respected coach and recruiter. He’s a different guy. He’s not his uncle. He’s got Louisiana ties and we need to get involved in that state a little bit more.
- On the roles of Williams and Woodson: Travis Williams is the defensive coordinator and Marcus is the co-(defensive coordinator). He’ll handle everything on the back end. He’s the man back there. He deserved that title because of his experience. Plus there’s no way I could have hired him without giving him that title.
- On security Shamar Easter after he didn’t sign early: Coach Turner did a great job of building a relationship with Shamar. He wanted to come to Arkansas for a long, long time. Sometimes there’s panic when there’s change.
Watch the Sam Pittman press conference here:
New Assistants Press Conference Updates
Following Pittman’s press conference, the three newest assistants — offensive coordinator Dan Enos, co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach Marcus Woodson and secondary coach Deron Wilson — also answered questions for about 20 minutes.
Here are some updates from that interview…
- Dan Enos, on his offense: In this game, it’s constantly evolving. You can either adapt and evolve with it, or get left behind. I try to stay on the cutting edge. Going to different places, I’ve learned all of the different things. The RPO is a whole new realm that we didn’t do the first time around. You also want to do things your personnel can do.
- Dan Enos, on KJ Jefferson compared to Taulia Tagovailoa: There are actually some similarities. KJ reminds me of Jalen Hurts, too. I like finding comparisons. I’ve coached a lot of QBs over the years. They’re all different. No two are the same. But the great ones I’ve been around, there are similar characteristics.
- Deron Wilson, on what drew him to Arkansas: The person who drew me here was Coach Pittman. He’s a stand-up, great guy. As soon as the opportunity came open, I reached out to some mentors and they said he would be the best head coach I’ve ever worked for. When people you trust say those things, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
- Deron Wilson, on how he’ll sell Arkansas to recruits: The first thing when you think of the University of Arkansas, if you go to other states, you have all these pro teams. In Arkansas, you have the University of Arkansas. It’s the flagship program. Kids grow up wanting to come here. Your pitch is that this is the pro team.
- Marcus Woodson, on how he’ll sell Arkansas to recruits: I don’t sell anything. To me, it’s about the people. I feel this is the best staff in the country. You get what you see. When it comes to development, I feel like we’re the best in the country. Also, it’s Arkansas – it can open up doors beyond football that will benefit you in life. Once you come and visit this place, it speaks for yourself. That’s the key, getting them on campus.
- Marcus Woodson, on his recruiting territories: When it comes to defensive backs, we’re going to recruit the best ones in the country regardless of location. That said, I’m most experienced in the southeast. Mississippi is my home state, so I feel like SEC-caliber recruits there, we’ll have a chance to compete for. I’ve recruited Dallas and some other areas in Texas. Having Coach Wilson from Louisiana, that should help, as well.
- Marcus Woodson, on how he improved Florida State’s secondary: Florida State was pretty bad when we first got there, as well. It took some work to get where we were when I left. So I think that experience should help me here. The main thing after watching film, I want us to be intentional with everything we do. The pieces are there with the guys we have on campus now. We can win with them. At the end of the day, I want to be super competitive. We can clean up some of the fundamentals. That’s going to fix a lot of the problems. I expect us to go from last to one of the top in the country.
- Dan Enos, on being back in Fayetteville: It’s been a whirlwind because it happened very quickly. It’s been really good because I have a lot of familiarity with Fayetteville. I haven’t had to use the GPS. That’s usually a struggle when you go somewhere. … The passion that the fans have for this university and being out with Coach Pittman and people talking to him, it’s a very special and unique place. So it was easy to come back.
- Marcus Woodson, on working with Travis Williams: We’re brothers. We were at Auburn together and we hit it off right away and felt like we knew each other for a lifetime. His wife and my wife, his kids and my kids, we’re one family. He’s the defensive coordinator and he’s the chief of that room. My sole focus is primarily the back seven and how we do things to get the back end cleaned up.
- Dan Enos, on impressions of Sam Pittman: When Coach Pittman got the job, a lot of people asked me about it. I said he would be a great coach because he’s very smart and organized and a great communicator. And the players loved him. He wasn’t their friend, but he demands respect by the way he coaches and teaches. I figured he’d be a great football coach.
- Dan Enos, on his experience as a head coach: Having been a head coach, I feel like I’m a better assistant coach. There aren’t a lot of days off when you sit in that chair. You understand the pressure and things that come with that. I try to take a step back and look at the head coach’s vision and how I can help him with that. Being a head coach before has given me more appreciation for them.
Watch the Deron Wilson, Marcus Woodson and Dan Enos press conference here:
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