Brand new head coach, Sam Pittman, inherited some very young talented players from Chad Morris. Obviously, in the SEC teams need men in order to take a step in the right direction. Whether through the JUCO ranks, graduate transfers, regular transfers or development of players on your current roster Arkansas has done just that since the Pittman hire in early December.
The transfer portal is one of the greatest things to happen in college athletics, in my opinion. So what if a freshman feels he is not exactly the ”fit” he was sold during his recruitment. After a year of maturing, he decides to enter the transfer portal, move on and have an exceptional career or vice versa. Same for the graduate transfer, he isn’t neccisarly quitting the team but feels there are better options for himself elsewhere. Every major college football player’s dream is to make it to the NFL. Why not transfer to another school where you can display your talents better.
Here is the ten Hogs who need to make an impact than spring/summer:
-Feliepe Franks: Another former SEC starter turned transfer quarterback has entered the locker room and will make his presence known. Franks experienced success at Florida with back to back New Year Six bowl game appearances while starting in one of them. Coming off an ankle injury in 2019, He is poised to make an impact return to the gridiron. This time dressed in cardinal and white as a Razorback.
-Bumper Pool: Yeah, Pool has already made an impact during his time at Arkansas but as a rising junior. With 94 total tackles in 2019, can he get over the century mark in 2020? In the previous six seasons, there has been at least one linebacker that recorded 100+ tackles in a season. Martrell Spaight (2014), Brooks Ellis (2015), Dre Greenlaw (2017 and 2018) and Scoota Harris (2017, 2018, 2019). One other ability Pool has displayed in his Razorback career is the ability to deflect passes recording five in 2019.
-Dorian Gerald: During the five game stretch at the end of 2018 through the first game of the 2019 season Gerald recorded 17 tackles with 2.5 of those tackles for a loss. As an elusive defensive end, he is very much needed for depth and reps as spring practice and fall practice emerge. There is no doubt that Arkansas will welcome his services and continue to create a solid defensive line for the Hogs.
-Xavier Kelly: There is a 90’s Vince Gill song that goes “give me one more last chance before you say we’re through.” With one season left before his college career ends, Kelly is looking to make an instant impact along a defensive line that needs run stuffing, pass rushing lineman. The former top 100 prospect became lost in the shuffle on the defensive line and chose to forgo is last season of eligibility at Clemson to transfer to Arkansas and fans have welcomed him with arms wide open. The question we all want to know, can Derrick LeBlanc wake up the beast within Kelly?
-Trey Knox and Treylon Burks: These two receivers are matched together as they are expected to be one of the top duos in the conference at their position. Yes, they did have two fantastic seasons as a true freshmen but with but with an experienced quarterback, improved offensive line play and a proven offensive coordinator, these two could both break out as super sophomores.
-Levi Draper: In a league that does not make defense a priority, it was surprising that Draper saw such a lack of playing time. The former top five linebacker in the class of 2017, a fresh start could be all he needed. It has been noted before during the transfer process that the addition of Barry Odom is one of the defining reasons on the decision for Draper to Arkansas. With a lack of quality depth at the linebacker position Draper could draw early playing time. The talent is obviously there as Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and many of the current powers of college football sought his signature on national signing day. Arkansas could have their best linebacker duo since 2017 if Draper and Pool stay healthy.
-Jerry Jacobs: Arkansas has been one of the youngest secondaries in the nation for quite sometime now. The addition of the former Sunbelt Conference All-conference player is very intriguing as Arkansas receives great depth and a shut down corner for the rebuilding 2020 Hogs. The former Redwolf recorded 52 tackles, 8 pass breakups and 4 interceptions in his career. Experience and talent are both needed at his position and I believe Arkansas is poised to have a few defensive backs breakout in 2020.
-The offensive line: I was going to list the former top 10 JUCO lineman, Myron Cunningham emerging as the guy on the line but chose the position as a whole. Many media outlets and fans alike believe Arkansas offensive line struggles were the reason for Arkansas being 8-28 the previous three seasons. Ok, Arkansas did struggle tremendously from 2017-18 along the offensive line BUT they did improve and were not the weakest link on 2019’s 2-10 campaign. The Hogs up front only allowed 19 sacks in 2019 compared to the 34 given up in 2018. With Cunningham, Noah Gatlin, Ty Clary and Ricky Stromberg returning the Razorbacks could return a solid offensive line with guru Brad Davis heading up the position and Pittman’s dedication to a powerful line. Plus, the addition of Jalen St. John, Marcus Henderson and Ray Curry, Jr. may not play early on. However, the three above were highly regarded at their positions and are expected to make an impact in their respective careers. One should expect the biggest goals for the offensive line are moving the pile and down and distance, more pancake blocks and a lower sack total that will return to the teens.
-Hudson Henry: It has been stated that the tight end position is not utilized as much in the Kendal Briles offense as it has been in the previous Razorback regimes. Henry does have a different skill set than what his older brother Hunter has though. The younger Henry is an outstanding pass catcher and has the ability to catch the ball in space and spread the defense out more with his route running ability. Henry dealt with a lingering concussion for most of his true freshman campaign helping to preserve his redshirt. He was highly regarded as the top tight end prospect in the class of 2019. Here is to hoping for a breakthrough 2020 offseason.