HawgBeat's 10 best defensive transfers Arkansas faces in 2021
Sam Pittman was not shy about his desire to add defensive linemen from the portal this offseason and he did just that.
A pair of Missouri transfers - defensive end Tre Williams and defensive tackle Markell Utsey - and a transfer from the FCS ranks, Illinois State defensive tackle John Ridgeway, have joined Arkansas this summer and are expected to compete for playing time in the trenches during fall camp.
The Razorbacks also added defensive back Trent Gordon, a transfer from Penn State, to the mix before spring ball.
While it may have been one of the most active teams in the SEC, Arkansas was far from the only defense in the conference that strengthened itself through the portal.
Here is HawgBeat’s look at the 10 best transfers the Razorbacks will face on that side of the ball in 2021…
1. S Tykee Smith - Georgia (from West Virginia)
Named a Freshman All-American in 2019, Smith followed that up with an even stronger sophomore season in which he earned numerous All-America accolades. Pro Football Focus, which gave him a fantastic 82.4 grade on 568 snaps last year, named him a first-team All-American, while the FWAA and AP placed him on their second and third teams, respectively.
The Bulldogs are also looking for a big-play guy on the back end of their defense after Richard LeCounte moved on to the NFL and Smith could be that guy. In two seasons at West Virginia, he racked up 10.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions.
It will also help that Smith will be reunited with Jahmile Addae, his position coach with the Mountaineers, at Georgia.
2. CB Derion Kendrick - Georgia (from Clemson)
That’s right - the top two players on this list are defensive backs at Georgia, and a strong case could be made for flipping them. Despite arriving at Clemson as a five-star wide receiver and playing that position in 2018, Kendrick flipped over to defense and has been an all-conference performer the last two years.
He has struggled in the College Football Playoffs, but Kendrick still earned a 69.0 grade from PFF last season and was a first-team All-ACC selection. With Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell going off the board in the first 33 picks of this year’s NFL Draft, he is expected to fill an immediate need for Georgia.
3. LB Henry To'o To'o - Alabama (from Tennessee)
Considered by some as the top transfer in college football, To’o To’o lands at No. 3 on our list because his resume isn’t quite as impressive as the Georgia pair and there’s not guarantee he’ll start for the Crimson Tide.
In his first two seasons at Tennessee, the former top-100 recruit racked up 148 tackles, including 15 for loss, but has earned grades of just 59.8 and 51.7 from PFF. He was also a Freshman All-American in 2019.
Alabama lost Dylan Moses to the NFL, but veteran backup Jaylen Moody is a legit candidate to fill that spot, as is Shane Lee, who led the team in tackles in 2019. With the kind of talent the Crimson Tide routinely bring in, To’o To’o isn’t a lock to be a starter.
4. LB Mike Jones Jr. - LSU (from Clemson)
Although he’s didn’t get consistent playing time at Clemson, Jones has a pretty solid sample size of 561 career snaps and he played well when he was on the field. A former four-star recruit, he posted a 77.9 PFF grade on 365 snaps last season, when he started seven games.
Jones is great in coverage, but struggled with tackling for the Tigers, as his 13 missed tackles led to a 33.3 tackle grade from PFF. Even with those issues, Jones still landed off PFF’s All-ACC second team.
LSU had a lot of success with transfer linebacker Jabril Cox last season and he has since moved on to the NFL as a four-round pick, so there should be plenty of opportunity to Jones to earn playing time with his new Tigers.
5. LB Chance Campbell - Ole Miss (from Maryland)
It certainly wasn’t as high profile as the linebacker additions by its SEC West foes, but Ole Miss also added a solid player in Campbell. In just four games last season, he made 43 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. That earned him honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades.
Even though he was just a 5.5 three-star recruit, Campbell was pretty good for the Terrapins the last two seasons. PFF gave him a 74.5 grade on 257 snaps in 2020 and a 76.0 grade on 435 snaps in 2019.
The Rebels do return Lakia Henry and MoMo Sanogo at linebacker, but did lose Jacquez Jones. They also aren’t know for playing great defense, so any help from a guy like Campbell would be especially felt at Ole Miss.
6. CB Dreshun Miller - Auburn (from West Virginia)
Originally committed to LSU coming out of junior college, Miller ended up signing with West Virginia, but now he’ll finally get an opportunity to play in the SEC. A top-10 JUCO prospect in the Class of 2019, an injury kept him off the field two years ago.
Once healthy, Miller was great for the Mountaineers in the pass-happy Big 12. He finished the season with 31 tackles, eight pass breakups and one interception while earning a solid 73.0 PFF grade on 557 snaps.
7. CB Akayleb Evans - Missouri (from Tulsa)
With a pair of corners transferring out of the program this offseason, it became clear Missouri needed to address the position and it did so by landing a pair of teammates - Evans and Allie Green IV - who followed their position coach, Aaron Fletcher, from Tulsa to Columbia.
They were both two-star recruits coming out of high school, but have evolved into solid players with 3,200 career defensive snaps between them. Evans gets the nod over Green on this list because he appears to be the better of the two.
Last season, he earned a 73.1 PFF grade on 468 snaps, compared to Green’s 49.7 grade on virtually the same number of snaps. It’s also worth noting that Evans turned down the likes of Georgia, Notre Dame and Texas to transfer to Missouri.
8. DE Randy Charlton - Mississippi State (from UCF)
Dismissed from UCF after an incident with police, Charlton landed in Starkville, where he’s expected to help replace Kobe Jones and Marquiss Spencer. He played 210 snaps before his dismissal and earned a 75.5 grade from PFF - up from his 71.6 grade on 321 snaps in 2019.
In 26 games for the Knights, Charlton racked up 68 tackles, including 12.5 for loss and four sacks. He also notched 44 pressures, according to PFF.
9. CB Jalen Green - Mississippi State (from Texas)
Another addition by the Bulldogs, Green comes to Starkville from Texas, where he originally signed as a 6.0 four-star recruit in the Class of 2018.
A solid cover guy, Green was targeted 72 times over the last two years and allowed only 38 receptions, according to PFF. That earned him 61.7 and 62.1 grades from the analytics site while playing 785 total snaps.
10. DE Marcus Harris - Auburn (from Kansas)
The Tigers added so many defensive pieces from the portal over the offseason that several of them could make a case for the final spot on our list. However, we went with Harris after being told by an Auburn beat writer that he is expected to make the biggest impact outside of Miller.
A former two-star recruit, Harris redshirted his first year at Kansas before a breakout 2020 season in which he made 27 tackles, including a team-high 7.5 for loss, and also forced a fumble, earning him a 69.9 PFF grade on his 367 snaps.
Another defensive transfer to watch at Auburn is defensive back Donovan Kaufman, a rare four-star recruit who actually signed with Vanderbilt out of high school. After just one year with the Commodores, though, he followed Derek Mason to Auburn and could start at safety for the Tigers.