Just nine days after finding its answer in the transfer portal, Arkansas football is once again in the market for a tight end after North Texas transfer Var’Keyes Gumms de-committed on Tuesday.
The news was first reported as official by 247Sports and then seemingly confirmed by Gumms via a retweet, but there had been signs that such a move was brewing. Not only did he tweet about an upcoming official visit to California earlier in the day, but he deleted his commitment announcement, as well.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprising development, though, considering his Jordan Domineck-esque entry into the transfer portal in the first place.
Gumms openly discussed his decision to remain at North Texas during an interview with the Mean Green Show on Dec. 20 and as recently as a couple days before his departure, new head coach Eric Morris talked about his fit in the offense.
In fact, North Texas’ tight ends coach was still talking about Gumms as a key part of the plans just minutes before he announced his intention to enter the transfer portal.
Despite bailing on the school that he not only signed with out of high school, but had given all indications he would return to, and backing off his pledge to Arkansas football after just nine days, Gumms posted on Twitter that his loyalty shouldn’t be questioned:
Regardless of how it all went down, the Razorbacks now must scramble to fill a hole they thought had been patched up.
What Losing Var’Keyes Gumms Means for Arkansas
Getting duped on a fake fair catch might have been more embarrassing on a national scale, but an argument could be made that losing the transfer from North Texas is a more significant blow to Arkansas football.
Sam Pittman was never shy about his desire to add a tight end from the transfer portal this offseason. The Razorbacks lost Trey Knox to the portal and then one of their four-star commitments, Jaden Hamm, de-committed — both following the news of tight ends coach Dowell Loggains’ departure.
Even though it was able to hang on to Luke Hasz and Shamar Easter, Arkansas’ numbers at the position are pretty low, especially with new offensive coordinator Dan Enos bringing in a more pro-style offense that utilizes 12- and 13-personnel formations that require two and three tight ends, respectively, on the field at the same time.
Nathan Bax is back as a super senior, but he’s a former walk-on and not much of a threat in the passing game. Ty Washington has shown flashes, but he’s a redshirt freshman with only one career reception. Then there’s Hasz and Easter, the latter of which won’t arrive on campus until this summer.
The Razorbacks missed out on another North Texas transfer when Jake Roberts picked Baylor and also didn’t reel in Cane Berrong from Notre Dame — both of whom they hosted as potential midyear enrollees — but then landed Var’Keyes Gumms during his first official visit after entering the transfer portal during the spring window.
It was a massive get for Arkansas because not only did he fill a major need, but he was also widely considered one of the top available transfers. In fact, a pair of ESPN analysts — Craig Haubert and Tom VanHaaren — tabbed him as their favorite “under-the-radar steal” of the spring window.
“Gumms can come in and contribute right away, which likely takes some pressure off the 2023 signees and allows them to get acclimated before throwing them into the fire and putting all the production on them,” VanHaaren wrote. “If Gumms can put up the type of numbers he has in the past, he’ll be a big asset for the Razorbacks in 2023.”
Unless Pittman, Enos and tight ends coach Morgan Turner pull a rabbit out of their hat — more on that below — it looks like that pressure will fall on the youngsters.
It remains to be seen how quickly Easter will adjust to the college game, but Hasz was one of the Razorbacks’ top spring standouts and established himself as a go-to option in the passing game. However, he’s still a true freshman and listed at just 226 pounds, so the blocking aspect of the position could be a challenge.
Remaining Options in the Transfer Portal
Considering they still have several open scholarships, the Razorbacks would probably like to still add a tight end from the transfer portal. Unfortunately for them, it’s pretty slim pickings at this point.
Most of the top transfer tight ends have already found new homes and — barring a graduate transfer or two entering in the coming weeks or months — the pool isn’t getting any larger because the spring transfer window closed over the weekend.
With that said, here are a few potential options for Arkansas football after losing Var’Keyes Gumms…
Seydou Traore — Arkansas State/Colorado
The best available transfer tight end is probably one who is on his second stint in the portal this offseason, as Seydou Traore originally transferred from Arkansas State to Colorado, only to re-enter as part of the Buffaloes’ mass exodus following spring ball.
Deion Sanders’ overhaul of that roster has been one of college football’s major stories since he was hired by Colorado. It has already impacted the Razorbacks in a negative way, as defensive end Jordan Domineck transferred there after originally announcing he’d return (plus safety Myles Slusher landed there after a brief commitment to Louisville out of the portal), and could now benefit them if they choose to pursue Traore.
However, the former soundout soccer goalie from London is listed at just 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, making him even lighter than Luke Hasz. Early on in spring ball, Colorado tight ends coach Tim Brewster indicated he might not be a great blocker, which is presumably something Arkansas would like because of the receiving skill set of Hasz and Shamar Easter.
“The pass game is the pass game, he’s going to do some really good things in the pass game,” Brewster said of Traore in April. “We have to have a true three-down tight end. We have to have a tight end that is going to be able to power block, that’s going to be able to stack some things at the point of attack. I am not about situational tight ends.”
That said, Traore is considered a four-star and top-200 overall transfer this cycle by 247Sports (No. 32), Rivals (No. 112) and On3 (No. 181). He is coming off a breakout season in which he caught 50 passes for 655 yards and four touchdowns.
Elijah Brown — Alabama
Outside of Traore, Elijah Brown is probably considered the next-best available tight end in the transfer portal. He wouldn’t check the “experienced” box on Sam Pittman’s wish list for the position, as he spent just one year at Alabama, but again, there aren’t exactly a ton of options at the moment.
Although he didn’t play last season, Brown was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, so he presumably has potential. He’s also from Ohio, which – oddly enough – the Razorbacks have recruited some of late by landing Cincinnati natives Anthony “Tank” Booker Jr. from Maryland and Jaheim Thomas from Cincinnati via the transfer portal, as well as sophomore linebacker Mani Powell. It probably doesn’t hurt that Arkansas also brought in Drew Sanders from Alabama last season and turned him into an All-American and third-round NFL Draft pick in just one season.
Bradley Archer — Stanford/Indiana
This wouldn’t be a sexy pickup from the transfer portal and would also require flipping him, but Bradley Archer did play for tight ends coach Morgan Turner for four seasons at Stanford, so there’s a connection.
Despite catching only 4 passes for 32 yards during his time with the Cardinal, Archer did get relatively significant playing time in 2021, but played sparingly last season. Listed at 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, he’s graded out well as a pass blocker on Pro Football Focus, but not so well in run blocking.
Archer committed to Indiana last week, a few days after Var’Keyes Gumms committed to Arkansas, plus it’s unclear how tight he was with Turner, so who knows if it’d be something the pair would even pursue. If he did play for the Razorbacks, though, Archer – at least on paper – appears to fit the mold of Nathan Bax.
Francis Sherman — Louisville
Speaking of fitting the mold of Nathan Bax, that’s essentially the perfect way to describe Francis Sherman. He joined Louisville as a walk-on and steadily saw his playing time increase over three years in the program.
Sherman earned a scholarship before last season and even started a couple of games while playing 230 snaps. Much like Bax and Archer, he doesn’t appear to be much of a threat in the passing game, as he’s been targeted only six times and caught just four passes for 32 yards in his career. However, he has graded out well in the blocking game, according to Pro Football Focus.
Arkansas Football Transfers in 2022-23 Cycle
With the loss of Var’Keyes Gumms, the Razorbacks are back down to 13 scholarship additions from the transfer portal. Here’s a list of those players…
- QB Jacolby Criswell — North Carolina
- WR Andrew Armstrong — Texas A&M-Commerce
- WR Isaac TeSlaa — Hillsdale College
- WR Tyrone Broden — Bowling Green
- OL Joshua Braun — Florida
- DE John Morgan III — Pittsburgh
- DE Trajan Jeffcoat — Missouri
- LB Antonio Grier — South Florida
- CB Lorando Johnson — Baylor
- S Alfahiym Walcott — Baylor
- CB Jaheim Singletary — Georgia
- DT Anthony Booker Jr. — Maryland
- LB Jaheim Thomas — Cincinnati
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