The next transfer portal window doesn’t open for another month, but that doesn’t mean Arkansas football has slowed down on looking for potential additions.
Plenty of players who went in during the last window, which closed Jan. 18, have yet to find new homes and there’s been a slow stream of graduate transfers — who don’t have restrictions on when they can enter — going in the portal over the past couple of months.
While there will undoubtedly be a post-spring surge of entrants during the April 15-30 window as players realize where they stand on the depth chart, Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman is keeping his eyes peeled for a few certain positions.
He landed a surprise commitment from former five-star recruit and Georgia cornerback Jaheim Singletary last week, but still has eight scholarships available for 2023 and has a tentative plan for how he’d like to use them that could change based on how things go in spring practice.
In addition to adding a veteran tight end and linebacker, Pittman is targeting the trenches — specifically the interior — on both sides of the ball. He has said numerous times he’d like to add another interior offensive lineman who can snap the ball and has recently discussed needing more defensive tackles to have enough depth to play a four-man front.
“We just don’t want to take somebody that we don’t think can help the football team,” Pittman said. “We’ve done a pretty good job in the portal as far as taking guys that can help us. If we find anybody at really any position — probably unless it’s quarterback and maybe running back — we would take them, but we are actively looking for those four positions…along with possibly a safety.”
A couple of names have recently popped up that Arkansas football has shown interest in along the offensive and defensive lines.
Anthony Booker Jr. Takes Official Visit
Even with Taurean Carter being fully cleared to practice this spring after missing all of last season with a torn ACL, the Razorbacks are still light on numbers at defensive tackle.
On the first day of spring ball, Arkansas had only five scholarship players working at the position. In addition to Carter, Cameron Ball is back after a solid redshirt freshman campaign and Eric Gregory has slid inside from defensive end. The other t I wo haven’t played much or at all, as Marcus Miller has battled injuries throughout his career and JJ Hollingsworth moved inside after redshirting as a defensive end last year.
The Razorbacks’ plan for now is to keep Nico Davillier at defensive end and incoming freshman Ian Geffrard won’t arrive on campus until this summer. That will give them enough to go three deep at practice, but only three of them have any significant experience.
That would make Arkansas a logical landing spot for someone like Anthony Booker, who has more than 500 career defensive snaps in a Power Five conference under his belt and was in Fayetteville this past weekend for an official visit.
A mid-tier three-star recruit in the 2019 class, Booker signed with Maryland and, despite starting only two games, has been part of the Terrapins’ defensive line rotation the last three years.
According to Pro Football Focus, the last two seasons have been his best. Booker earned a 76.1 overall grade on 105 snaps in 2021 and managed to increase that to 77.1 despite playing more than twice as many snaps (234) last year.
Playing in the run-heavy Big Ten, he’s been particularly stout against the run, posting 78-plus run defense grades those two years and notching 20 “stops” — tackles that constitute a “failure” for the offense, as defined by PFF — last year. For a comparison, Arkanslas’ top two defensive tackles last year, Isaiah Nichols and Terry Hampton, combined for 23 “stops” on 826 snaps.
Nicknamed “Tank,” Booker is listed at 6-foot-4, 320 pounds. He’ll be a fifth-year senior in 2023, but technically has two years of eligibility remaining because of the bonus pandemic year.
A native of Cincinnati, Booker doesn’t have any obvious ties to Arkansas, but the Razorbacks do have Dan Enos. Before becoming Arkansas’ offensive coordinator this offseason, Enos held the same position for two years at Maryland. Even though they were on opposite sides of the ball, it’s probably a safe bet that Enos and Booker still had a relationship of some sort.
Arkansas Football Offers Cam’Ron Johnson
Connections to Dan Enos weren’t enough for the Razorbacks to land former Maryland offensive lineman Mason Lunsford, whom they offered but has since signed with LSU, though.
Instead, their search for another interior offensive lineman has apparently led them to Cam’Ron Johnson, an all-conference left guard at Houston who entered the transfer portal last week.
He has quickly garnered interest from several Power Five programs, with Arkansas being one of seven who have offered him a scholarship so far. Missouri and South Carolina are the only other SEC schools to offer, but he’s also being pursued by California, Maryland, West Virginia and Arizona State.
That’s not surprising considering his credentials. A low three-star recruit coming out of Shadow Creek High School in Pearland, Texas, Johnson originally committed to Colorado in the 2019 class before ultimately opting to say much closer to home.
After playing just one snap his first two years with the Cougars, Johnson got significant playing time as a redshirt sophomore in 2021. Even though he never started, he played 669 snaps at left guard and earned a solid 67.5 grade from Pro Football Focus.
Johnson moved into the starting lineup last season and played nearly 96% of Houston’s total offensive snaps. PFF gave him an overall grade of 65.2 on 905 snaps, but his pass-blocking grade made a massive jump, going from 64.9 to 79.4. He was credited with only one sack allowed on 586 pass-blocking snaps. That earned him first-team All-AAC honors.
It’s unclear if the 6-foot-4, 305-pound lineman has any experience snapping the ball, either in practice or high school, but all 1,575 snaps of his collegiate career have come at left guard.
Much like Anthony Booker Jr., Johnson has two years of eligibility remaining because he redshirted in 2019 and 2020 doesn’t count because of the pandemic.
If he’s looking for a situation where he can walk in and start immediately, Arkansas might not be the best spot for Johnson because that probably isn’t something Sam Pittman and Cody Kennedy would be able to guarantee.
The Razorbacks return starting left guard Brady Latham, but he has also gotten reps at left tackle this spring. Last year’s starting right guard, Beaux Limmer, has shifted to center, opening the door for Arkansas’ talented young linemen — such as E’Marion Harris and Patrick Kutas — and Florida transfer Joshua Braun.
Exactly what the Razorbacks’ offensive line will look like this fall is one of the biggest questions facing the team this spring because they will be trying various combinations to replace three of last year’s starters, but adding someone the caliber of Cam’Ron Johnson would certainly be welcomed if he wanted to come.
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