Even with the departure of Barry Odom, it seems like the Missouri pipeline is still open for Arkansas football.
The Razorbacks’ latest addition from the transfer portal is defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat, who earned first-team All-SEC honors in one of his five years at Missouri. He announced his commitment Sunday night following an official visit to Fayetteville and is enrolled in classes, so he’ll be able to go through spring ball.
It is the third time Arkansas has landed a defensive lineman who began his career with the Tigers, as it also brought in Tre Williams and Markell Utsey for the 2021 season. All three played for Odom, the Razorbacks’ former defensive coordinator who’s now the head coach at UNLV.
Williams initially signed with Houston out of the portal before reentering and ending up at Arkansas, and a similar dynamic happened here. All signs pointed to Jeffcoat returning to his hometown of Columbia, S.C., and playing for South Carolina, but that transfer broke down last week, opening the door for Sam Pittman to swoop in and land a much-needed pass rusher.
The Razorbacks have now landed a pair of players at that position, with Jeffcoat joining former Pittsburgh standout John Morgan III. They are part of what is now a 10-man transfer class for Arkansas football.
A trio of wide receivers — Andrew Armstrong from FCS Texas A&M-Commerce, Isaac TeSlaa from DII Hillsdale College and Tyrone Broden from Bowling Green — make up the biggest chunk of the group, plus Arkansas is bringing in a pair of defensive backs from Baylor in Lorando Johnson and Alfahiym Walcott.
The other transfers are offensive lineman Joshua Braun from Florida, quarterback Jacolby Criswell from North Carolina and linebacker Antonio Grier Jr. from South Florida.
Trajan Jeffcoat Resume with Missouri Football
A three-star recruit coming out of Irma High in Columbia, S.C., Trajan Jeffcoat received a lot of Group of Five interest early on before Missouri gave him an offer before his senior year.
Even though he didn’t go public with it until a few months later, he actually committed to the Tigers during an official visit in September 2017. Over that stretch, Ole Miss and several other schools pushed to get him on campus for a visit, but his only other Power Five offer came from Indiana.
As a freshman, Jeffcoat outplayed his recruiting rating by working his way into Missouri’s defensive line rotation. He didn’t make a single start, but did appear in all 13 games and played 143 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. His lone sack came in the Tigers’ regular-season finale against Arkansas.
There were high expectations for him heading into 2019 and he was even listed as a starter on Missouri’s initial depth chart at SEC Media Days. Unfortunately, a dislocated elbow sidelined him at the start of the year and he eventually left the team – and school – for undisclosed reasons in October of that year.
Jeffcoat actually entered the transfer portal and picked up some offers, but when Eli Drinkwitz was hired as the Tigers’ new head coach, he was talked into rejoining the team he initially left.
It proved to be a good move for both parties, as Jeffcoat enjoyed a breakout year in 2020. He finished tied for fifth in the SEC with six sacks in nine games during the pandemic-altered season, earning first-team All-SEC honors from the AP and Coaches.
He’s never quite replicated that production since then, with only 4.5 sacks over the past two seasons, but he does have 12 tackles for loss over that span.
Jeffcoat has 84 career tackles, including 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. PFF credits him with 71 total pressures in 1,569 career defensive snaps, as well, plus he started 28 games during his time at Missouri.
In addition to him leaving the team in 2019, Jeffcoat also drew headlines the following year when his late hit on Florida quarterback Kyle Trask sparked a halftime brawl.
One of the three players ejected during that brawl was Tre Williams, who came to Arkansas the next year and — despite his lone season ending with a DUI arrest before the bowl game — had a lot of success with a team-high 6 sacks. Williams also played a key role in the Razorbacks snapping their long losing streak against Texas A&M.
What it Means for Arkansas Football
As recently as a couple of weeks ago, the Razorbacks appeared to be in good shape in terms of pass rushers, which will have an increased importance in defensive coordinator Travis Williams’ more aggressive system.
The aforementioned addition of Pittsburgh’s John Morgan III out of the transfer portal seemingly gave Arkansas a pair of pass-rushing specialists because Jordan Domineck had announced his intention to return as a super senior.
Between the two of them, they had 31 career sacks — including 7.5 by Domineck in his first season with the Razorbacks as a transfer from Georgia Tech. They seemed to be perfect fits for the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position in Williams’ four-man front.
Unfortunately for Arkansas, Domineck changed his mind a month later and decided to use his extra year of eligibility elsewhere by entering the portal. He quickly ended up at Colorado with Deion Sanders.
Coincidentally enough, something similar happened with Jeffcoat. After reportedly missing Missouri’s bowl game with an injury, he announced on Jan. 3 that he would return for his super senior season. Five days later, though, he popped up in the transfer portal.
South Carolina was the frontrunner to land his services, as he is a Columbia native. He was set to enroll and join the Gamecocks, but the transfer fell through. Details are fuzzy as to exactly what happened, but multiple reports cite that it wasn’t for academic-related reasons.
That worked in favor of Arkansas, which was in search of a replacement for Domineck and found one with All-SEC credentials.
If he can get back to his 2020 form, Jeffcoat could provide a pass rush similar to what the Razorbacks got from Tre Williams a couple of years ago. Like Williams, Jeffcoat flashed his potential with an NFL frame (6-foot-4, 269 pounds), but was far from consistent the last two years and actually lost his starting job late this season.
The move from Missouri to Arkansas seemed to benefit Williams, especially early in the 2021 season, so now Trajan Jeffcoat and the Razorbacks are likely hoping to channel something similar in 2023. Plus, it helps that they already have Morgan, so he won’t have to carry the same level of pressure as the only guy capable of consistently getting after the quarterback.
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