2024 Arkansas DB Preview: There’s No More Than Two Certainties in Spring Ball Starting Lineup

Jaylon Braxton, Hudson Clark, Jayden Johnson, Arkansas football
photo credit: Nick Wenger

With spring ball less than two weeks away for Arkansas football, Best of Arkansas Sports is taking a closer look at each position as Sam Pittman enters a pivotal Year 5 leading the program.

The actual season gets underway Aug. 31 against UAPB, but the Razorbacks will begin spring drills on March 7.

Here’s our preview of the secondary, which was much improved in 2023, but still has room to be better…

Top Storyline: First- and Second-Year DBs

How many of Arkansas’ 11 first- and second-year defensive backs will crack the two-deep depth chart this year?

No position on the Arkansas football roster has seen a larger influx of young talent over the past two seasons than the secondary. The Razorbacks signed six high school defensive backs in 2023 and five more in the 2024 cycle.

Perhaps surprisingly, all 11 are still on the roster and will go through spring ball. However, this is the era of the transfer portal, so whether or not all of them make it to the fall remains to be seen. The upcoming 15 practices could have a lot to do with that.

Even though Arkansas must replace a couple of key defensive backs in Alfahiym Walcott (exhausted eligibility) and Dwight McGlothern (NFL Draft), plus a couple of reserves who hit the portal, there aren’t exactly a ton of spots up for grabs.

Each of the three Razorbacks who had 600-plus defensive snaps last year – Lorando Johnson, Hudson Clark and Jayden Johnson – are back and play in the secondary. They also brought in three transfers who will likely be vying for playing time: Miguel Mitchell (Florida), Marquise Robinson (South Alabama) and Doneiko Slaughter (Tennessee).

Assuming all of those players are at least backups, they’ll take up six of the 10 spots in the two-deep – and that doesn’t factor in other returning players like Jaheim Singletary and Kee’yon Stewart.

That leaves only a handful of spots for the 11 youngsters. The safest bet to take one of them is Jaylon Braxton, who emerged as a starter and was one of Arkansas’ highest-graded defenders as a true freshman last year. Right behind him is TJ Metcalf, who played enough to burn his redshirt, as well.

Whether or not any of the others work their way into the rotation likely depends on them beating out a returning player or a transfer. Certainly, there is precedent for this kind of thing. Just look at last year, when a freshman (Braxton) beat out a transfer (Stewart) at cornerback.

The other second-year defensive backs include sophomore Dylan Hasz, who burned his redshirt by playing special teams, and a trio of redshirt freshmen: Christian Ford, RJ Johnson and Dallas Young. The five true freshmen, all of whom are early enrollees, are listed in the “Newcomers” section below.

Considering how prevalent transfers are, it wouldn’t be surprising to see multiple players from that group hit the portal after the season, either because they want playing time elsewhere or they’re pushed out to make room for new transfers. This spring could go a long way in determining which of them are on portal watch next December.

Returning Player(s) to Watch in Spring Ball

Jaheim Singletary

With Jaylon Braxton coming back after a stellar freshman season, the Frisco, Texas native is likely locked in as one of the Razorbacks’ starting cornerbacks in 2024. Arkansas probably hoped to have Quincey McAdoo back this year, but Best of Arkansas Sports has learned that won’t be the case.

Now entering his second season in Fayetteville after transferring in from Baylor, Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson could start at cornerback, as he did a few times last season, but he’s also a strong candidate to start at nickel.

Whether or not Arkansas can keep him at nickel could depend on the development of Jaheim Singletary, who transferred in from Georgia last offseason.

A former five-star recruit, he won the starting job opposite Dwight McGlothern out of fall camp, but lost it a few games into the season. Braxton’s strong play caused some of that, but so did some struggles by Singletary.

The turning point was against LSU, when the Jacksonville, Fla., native was torched multiple times in a 34-31 loss. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed five receptions for 140 yards and three touchdowns that game.

Up to that point, Singletary had started three of four games and played 178 defensive snaps. Over the final eight games, he started just once and played only 160 snaps. That start and 60 of those snaps came in the finale against Missouri because of an injury to Braxton.

The potential is still there, though. After all, Singletary was just a redshirt freshman last season. Now in his second season at Arkansas, the hope is he’ll be much improved and live up to the hype — but if he doesn’t, there could be a younger player waiting to take his spot again in 2024.

Arkansas Football Newcomers

Doneiko Slaughter, Marquise Robinson, Miguel Mitchell, Jaden Allen, Selman Bridges, Ahkhari Johnson, Tevis Metcalf, Julius Pope

Not only did the Razorbacks sign five defensive backs in the 2024 class, but they also landed three out of the transfer portal. Two of those came from within the SEC – Doneiko Slaughter from Tennessee and Miguel Mitchell from Florida. The third is Marquise Robinson, who is making the jump from the Group of Five (South Alabama) to the SEC.

Between Dwight McGlothern (LSU), Lorando Johnson (Baylor), Alfahiym Walcott (Baylor), Jaheim Singletary (Georgia), Kee’yon Stewart (TCU), Latavious Brini (Georgia) and Trent Gordon (Penn State), transfers have played more than 3,800 snaps in Arkansas’ secondary the last two seasons. They’ll likely factor in again this year.

Slaughter started 15 games and played 1,129 snaps over the last four years at Tennessee and was actually a solid cornerback for the Vols – especially two years ago. In 2022, the former four-star recruit earned a 71.4 PFF grade and had seven pass breakups to go along with an interception.

Mitchell isn’t quite as experienced, but he did start eight games and play nearly 500 snaps in two seasons at Florida. He is a safety and had some good moments as a sophomore this past year, including posting a 79.4 PFF grade against Utah and coming down with the game-sealing interception against South Carolina. However, he finished the year with a 55.8 grade and had only two pass breakups.

Robinson is a bit of a mystery coming from South Alabama. A JUCO product, he was the Jaguars’ starting nickel his first season in 2022 before moving to corner in 2023. He could presumably play either position for the Razorbacks, but did grade higher at corner (63.8) than nickel (61.4). Whether or not he can make the jump to the SEC remains to be seen, as the seven transfer defensive backs mentioned above all came from Power Five schools.

Among the freshmen, Selman Bridges is the headliner. The 6’3” cornerback from Texas was ranked as a top-130 prospect by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals. Jaden Allen, another cornerback from Texas, was once ranked highly by the recruiting services and was previously committed to the Longhorns.

Julius Pope is a four-star prospect on Rivals and will begin his career at Arkansas as a nickel despite being listed as a linebacker by most services. Tevis Metcalf is the younger brother of TJ Metcalf, who played as a true freshman last year, while Ahkhari Johnson played all over the field in high school and will focus on defense in college.

Projected Arkansas DB Depth Chart Entering Spring

CBJaylon BraxtonKee’yon Stewart
NBLorando JohnsonMarquise Robinson
SJayden JohnsonMiguel Mitchell
SHudson ClarkTJ Metcalf
CBJaheim SingletaryDoneiko Slaughter
Others: Dylan Hasz, Christian Ford, RJ Johnson, Dallas Young, Jaden Allen, Selman Bridges, Ahkhari Johnson, Tevis Metcalf, Julius Pope, *Ethan Joseph, *Aidan McCowan, *Landon Phipps, *John Paul Pickens, *Braylon Watson, *Anton Pierce, *Jabrae Shaw


When putting together a pre-spring depth chart for the secondary, about the only certainties are Jayden Johnson as one of the starting safeties and Jaylon Braxton as one of the starting cornerbacks.

It’s probably a safe bet that Hudson Clark – despite what some fans may hope – and Lorando Johnson will also be starters on Day 1 of spring ball, but where exactly remains to be seen. Clark has played everywhere during his career, but was mostly a safety and nickel last year, while Johnson went back and forth between nickel and cornerback.

We ultimately slotted Clark at safety and Johnson at nickel because that enabled us to get the most experienced remaining defensive back in the starting group. That’s Jaheim Singletary at cornerback.

As we have with every position so far, the transfers are listed on the second unit in our projection. That’s because Sam Pittman’s philosophy is to make them earn their starting roles.

Arkansas Football Spring Previews



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