FAYETTEVILLE — Defensive back Trent Gordon has been declared academically ineligible and won’t play in the upcoming Liberty Bowl, a UA spokesperson confirmed to Best of Arkansas Sports.
A traditional redshirt senior, Gordon could technically return to Arkansas as a super senior next season, but this likely ends his time with the Razorbacks. He describes himself as a “former” defensive back at Arkansas on Twitter.
Even though he hasn’t played much, Gordon has been a constant fixture in the Razorbacks’ depth chart since arriving as a transfer from Penn State following the 2020 season.
It is the second time Arkansas has lost a backup within a week of its showdown with Kansas in Memphis on Dec. 28. Backup center Marcus Henderson entered the transfer portal Wednesday.
Two Stops for Trent Gordon
Coming out of high school, Trent Gordon was a four-star prospect on Rivals and had quite a few Power Five offers. Ultimately, though, he chose Penn State over the likes of Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon and several others.
He joined the Nittany Lions as a cornerback and appeared in four games as a true freshman, preserving his redshirt. The next season, Gordon actually worked his way into the rotation and played 209 defensive snaps with some success.
However, Penn State moved him to safety before the 2020 season and his only action during the pandemic-shortened season came on special teams. That likely contributed to him entering the portal.
The Razorbacks had a need for defensive backs and were a lot closer to his hometown of Manvel, Texas, so they were a logical landing spot. He committed a few weeks after the end of the regular season.
There was a thought that Gordon would be an immediate contributor at Arkansas, but injuries severely limited him last season and then he was buried on the depth chart this season.
Even though he was listed as a backup nickel throughout the season, Gordon found himself behind both Myles Slusher and Jayden Johnson by the end of the year. In fact, it required not only injuries to those players, but four other defensive backs before he finally got significant reps in the Mississippi State and BYU games. He played 102 defensive snaps in those games, but only 19 snaps in the other 24 games during his time in Fayetteville.
In a recent bowl practice, Gordon was spotted still working with the second-team defense during the media viewing period. His departure likely makes it easier for Arkansas to give true freshman Jaylen Lewis — someone head coach Sam Pittman had mentioned as an early standout in bowl prep — some action on defense.
It is worth noting, though, that the Razorbacks are now down to just 54 scholarship players for the Liberty Bowl — one above the 53-man threshold that was in place during the pandemic-altered 2020 season, when games would get postponed if numbers dropped to that level.
That total includes a pair of players whose status remains up in the air because of injuries, too. Defensive lineman Eric Gregory had a knee scope after the Missouri game and long snapper Eli Stein missed the regular-season finale with a finger injury.
Other Potential Super Seniors for Arkansas Football
Considering his lack of usage in a secondary that ranks 118th nationally in pass defense (273.9 ypg), Best of Arkansas Sports recently ranked Trent Gordon last among the 12 potential super seniors in terms of importance to the Arkansas football program.
Still, getting clarity on his status moving forward continues to help the 2023 roster come into focus. In addition to trying to add players from the transfer portal, the Razorbacks also have a handful of the aforementioned super seniors who’ve yet to publicly announce their decisions regarding next season.
Center Ricky Stromberg has declared for the NFL Draft, left tackle Luke Jones won’t return and three others — tight end Trey Knox, defensive tackle Isaiah Nichols and punter Reid Bauer — have entered the transfer portal.
So far, the only one who’s announced his return is defensive end Jordan Domineck. The other five remain unknown.
That includes quarterback Cade Fortin, who is technically a walk-on for the Razorbacks even though he was on scholarship at North Carolina and South Florida before transferring in.
Sam Pittman told reporters that he expected to bring back four super seniors, but it’s unclear if that number includes Fortin as a walk-on or Domineck as someone who had already announced his decision.
If it doesn’t, that seems to indicate he expects tight end Nathan Bax, safety Simeon Blair, defensive back LaDarrius Bishop and defensive end Zach Williams to be back in 2023. If it does, then a couple of them may still move on after the bowl game.
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