Arkansas, like most non-high profile FBS programs, is going to have to find major assistance in the transfer portal, because five-star high school recruits don’t grow on trees in the state or routinely flock to the Razorbacks.
Since Sam Pittman took over for the 2020 season, portal finds have played key roles on all four of his teams.
His first season, Feleipe Franks and Trelon Smith were pivotal in Arkansas winning three SEC games and almost winning more.
In 2021, John Ridgeway and Tre Williams were huge contributors on a Razorback defensive line that helped the team win nine games, the most in a season since 2011.
The following season saw the emergence of wide receivers Matt Landers (Kent State by way of Georgia) and Jadon Haselwood (Oklahoma), along with linebacker Drew Sanders from Alabama, in helping that team win 7 games and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Landon Jackson and Dwight McGlothern also joined the team that year from LSU together.
Even this past year, receivers Andrew Armstrong and Isaac TeSlaa along with defensive backs Lorando ‘Snaxx’ Johnson and Alfayhim Walcott were pivotal in Arkansas having the success it did even in a disappointing 4-8 season.
Now as Pittman looks toward the portal again, he is hoping to find players that can come in and make an immediate impact on the roster next season.
The Razorbacks have already landed three transfers – offensive lineman Keyshawn Blackstock from Michigan State, tight end Andreas Paaske from Eastern Michigan and quarterback Taylen Green from Boise State – and are actively pursuing several others.
In fact, they’ve hosted quite a few since the portal opened earlier this month and will host a few more this weekend. We here at Best of Arkansas Sports decided to rank the most of the recent visitors from the most to least impactful in the 2024 season if Arkansas landed them.
Ranking Arkansas’ Transfer Portal Visitors
1. LB Xavian Sorey Jr. – Georgia
Georgia linebacker Xavian Sorey Jr., 6-3, 230, wrapped up his official visit on Wednesday.
Sorey would help fix a linebacker position room that is bleeding from all of the exits to the portal, such as Christopher ‘Pooh’ Paul, Jordan Crook and Mani Powell. He might be able to have a Drew Sanders type of jump where he plays himself into a first- or second-day NFL draft position because he would get to be a focal point instead of just playing on special teams or in a reserve role.
2. OL Fernando Carmona – San Jose State
San Jose State offensive lineman Fernando Carmona, 6-5, 325, arrived Wednesday for his official visit. He is a converted tight end who bulked up 100 pounds (kind of like Landon Jackson) and is now an offensive tackle. Carmona allowed only two sacks all of last season, which would immediately be an improvement from last year.
UPDATE: Late Friday evening, Carmona confirmed he was committed to the Razorbacks. He chose Arkansas over BYU, LSU and Auburn, and canceled a weekend trip to the latter. “Coach (Sam) Pittman is second to none dude,” Carmona said on his visit, according to Pig Trail Nation’s Otis Kirk. “He’s very himself. You can tell the entire visit. He’s just a ball of joy. His wife is an amazing lady. I had a great time with Coach (Eric) Mateos and all the guys that have been a round so it’s been an amazing time.“
3. DB Nyland Green – Georgia
Georgia defensive back Nyland Green, 6-1, 185, arrived Thursday for his visit. He accumulated five tackles for the Bulldogs and would be a sophomore. The secondary could use the depth, especially a player who has played in the SEC at a high-level program like Georgia and was a five-star recruit coming out of high school.
4. DB Doneiko Slaughter – Tennessee
Tennessee defensive back Doneiko Slaughter, 6-0, 190 was on the verge of committing to the Razorbacks after a Wednesday visit.
He would provide instant credibility in the secondary, and would most likely challenge for a starting spot in the spring. He can also play multiple positions.
UPDATE: On Friday evening, Doneiko Slaughter committed just a day after citing an unusual reason.
5. DE Nate Matlack – Kansas State
Kansas State defensive end Nate Matlack, 6-5, 249, officially visited Arkansas on Monday.
In 2023, Matlack had 26 tackles, 15 solo, four sacks, one pass breakup and a fumble recovery. What could happen in this scenario is if he elects to commit to the Razorbacks, his Wildcat teammate Kobe Savage is favored to also end up in Fayetteville. It would be similar to two years ago when Jackson and McGlothern came from LSU together and even a year ago with Johnson and Walcott both joining the Razorbacks from Baylor.
6. DB Tayon Holloway – North Carolina
North Carolina defensive back Tayon Holloway, 6-0 1/2, 185 took a visit on Thursday.
This season, Holloway had 19 tackles, including 16 solo, and a pass breakup. There are other schools requesting Holloway’s services, but he would only bolster Marcus Woodson’s secondary.
7a. LB Tyler Woodard – East Mississippi C.C.
7b. CB Brylan Lanier – East Mississippi C.C.
These players aren’t technically in the transfer portal, as they are JUCO transfers, but they still have college experience, so we’ll include them.
East Mississippi JC linebacker Tyler Woodard, 6-2, 200, made 55 tackles, 33 solo and one interception this season. He recently played in War Memorial Stadium during the NJCAA national championship game.
His teammate, East Mississippi JC cornerback Brylan Lanier, 6-0, 165, has played at both Alabama and Indiana. He compiled 56 tackles this season. He also has 15.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles and four pass breakups. Lanier announced that he will decide on either Arkansas or North Carolina State, according to Pig Trail Nation.
8. OL Addison Nichols – Tennessee
This 6-5, 327-pound Tennessee offensive lineman is projected as a center/guard and entered the transfer portal the day it opened.
Danny West of 247Sports reports that the redshirt freshman is visiting Fayetteville this weekend. The offensive line is obviously a position group of need and the former 4-star recruit would at the minimum provide depth and competition heading into spring drills.
Whether Nichols actually wanted to transfer or was asked to leave after his two seasons in Knoxville is a matter of debate.
On one hand, Volunteers offensive line coach Glen Earbee talked him up at a quarterback club luncheon with a few weeks to go in the season. On the other hand, he had a chance to play significant reps at center and left guard in 2023 for the Vols, but couldn’t secure the job.
“I don’t think they were particularly happy with his development,” Vols insider Dave Hooker recently said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he was asked to leave at all.”
Off the Hook’s Caleb Calhoun agrees, adding that Nichols’ main shortcoming was his failure to develop a mean streak: “Addison Nichols is the Blake Griffin of football. For those who don’t know Blake Griffin was super athletic, but the book out on him was if you cheap shot him under the basket, he backs off.”
For the latest on Arkansas’ most recent commit, go here:
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