11 Weaknesses Keeping Carmona from Making NFL Draft History as a Hog

Fernando Carmona Jr., Arkansas football
photo credit: Craven Whitlow

In about two weeks, media personalities from across the South and, really, across the country, will descend on Dallas – the heart of SEC country now, apparently – for the Southeastern Conference’s Media Days. There, the assembled writers, bloggers and radio/TV personalities will make their preseason predictions for how they think the SEC will shake out. 

Arkansas is almost certainly going to be no better than 13th. 

Homerism will see local, Natural State media members pick the Razorbacks at 6-6. Some even better. But the likelihood of the Hogs going 4-8 is greater than the team going 7-5. The league is too good now with the inclusion of Texas and Oklahoma. But it doesn’t mean that Arkansas is totally talentless.

Arkansas Football’s Best Player

The best player on the offensive side of the ball is one almost no fan has seen play, up-close or on television. Fernando Carmona, entering his first season on Sam Pittman’s roster, not only played at San Jose State, a team almost no one outside of Spartans alums and late-night college football fanatics watch, but he also plays on the offensive line.

Even when the season begins, Carmona will likely be unsung, as those who play his position often tend to be. Of course, if Arkansas’ offensive line does a 180-degree turn from last season, the credit will come. TBD.

Carmona is so good, in fact, some NFL Draft pundits see him as a potential first-round pick. Arkansas has had just two of those since Darren McFadden and Felix Jones both went in the first back in 2008. Those were Treylon Burks in 2022 and Frank Ragnow in 2018. And the Razorbacks have never had an offensive tackle go in the first round since the NFL Draft started in 1936.

When he released a mock 2025 NFL Draft back in May, Ryan McCrystal at Sharp Football had Carmona going No. 17 overall, which would be the highest selection Arkansas has had since McFadden went fourth overall in 2008.

With Landon Jackson also in consideration as a first-rounder, though McCrystal didn’t have him in his mock draft, Arkansas has two cornerstones in the trenches. The major question, of course, is everywhere else. 

A more minor question is how Carmona holds up against the big dogs. The SEC isn’t the Mountain West. Arkansas, and perhaps Carmona, will have to go up against both preseason first-team All-SEC selections at defensive end in Texas A&M’s Nic Scourton and Tennessee’s James Pearce. Toss in Harold Perkins, a linebacker at LSU who has absolutely dismantled Arkansas’ offense the last two seasons, and nothing in the MWC can match the high-end talent the SEC will throw at the SJSU transfer.

Still, Carmona is good enough that Arkansas offensive line coach Eric Mateos said teams were trying to poach the former Spartans left tackle even after he had committed to the Hogs out of the transfer portal this past winter.

NFL Draft and Fernando Carmona

Ian Cummings at Pro Football Network is withholding judgment, but is encouraged by what he’s seen in recent years from small-school players being able to hold their own when placed on a bigger stage.

“I need to see sustained development over a decent sample of full-speed games before I give prospects credit for taking the next step,” Cummings told Best of Arkansas Sports. “That said, many of Carmona’s issues appear correctable. And once he irons out aberrations in his pad level management and sequencing in various phases, he can be a phenomenal player.”

Cummings thinks Carmona could be the first offensive tackle off the board, period. He isn’t going so far as to say it will happen, either. But in grading college OTs, he has analyzed each of the best prospects strengths and weaknesses. Carmona’s?

  • Sometimes plays too tall out of his kick, with not enough knee bend to keep leverage.
  • On occasion, halts his feet in space and lurches past his center of gravity, losing balance.
  • Inconsistent management of pad level and base load can impact engagement technique.
  • Sometimes idles his feet too much and is caught flat against delayed rushes and stunts.
  • At times, undersets out of his stance and doesn’t get enough depth on his kick.
  • Sometimes drifts too far back off his set angle, impacting pass-blocking synergy.
  • Can be prone to whiffing with precision on initial punches and bear-hugging in recovery.
  • Could be more consistent at proactively loading and employing hands as a moving blocker.
  • At times, lacks the high-end hip flexibility to seal off the apex while keeping speed.
  • Occasionally experiences slight reaction delays when shifting run-game assignments.
  • Sometimes sells out toward head-up defenders and misses delayed blitz threats.
  • Will turn 23 years old ahead of his rookie season.

Carmona is definitely still learning, too. He was a basketball player and tight end in high school. Not even an offensive lineman. And Carmona really only had two suitors: New Mexico State and San Jose State. NMSU would let him play tight end, but Carmona said, the Aggies were only in modest contact. Josh Oglesby, who recruited him to the Spartans ultimately, convinced him to make the positional switch.

“Funny enough, before I even started playing football, I told myself, ‘If they ever move me to offensive line, I’m quitting,’” Carmona told The WuPig Podcast

It’s worked before at Arkansas. Jason Peters played tight end for the Razorbacks but went through offensive line workouts in anticipation of the 2004 draft, where he was not selected. Peters went on to a 19-year career in the NFL during which he won a Super Bowl, went to the nine Pro Bowls and was a six-time All-Pro. Soon, he will be in the Hall of Fame.

For Arkansas’ purposes, just a solid showing from Carmona will suffice. The Razorbacks allowed 47 sacks last year, ranking 127th out of 133 FBS teams. The ground game was little better as the offensive line paved the way for just 139 yards per game, the lowest total since the hellscape season that was 2012. Even Chad Morris’ offenses were not that poor in those two facets.

If Carmona and company can shore those things up, hey, maybe 6-6 is doable. But a guy who was only beaten three percent of the time in 2023 seems to have a bright future on his own, anyway.

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Carmona talks his transition from tight end to offensive line.

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Bigger and better programs than Arkansas wanted Carmona and tried to talk him out of Fayetteville.

Players talk about the school they choose being a family. For Carmona is felt legit.

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