Looking back at Arkansas' transfers under Pittman
It is still very early in the portal season, but Arkansas has already enjoyed some early success with landing transfers.
On back-to-back weekends leading up to the early signing period, the Razorbacks secured commitments from former Oklahoma wide receiver Jadon Haselwood and former LSU defensive end Landon Jackson.
Both players were heralded recruits - Haselwood the No. 4 overall player in 2019 and Jackson a one-time five-star prospect before falling out of the Rivals250 and settling in as a 5.8 four-star - and are expected to contribute at positions of need in 2021.
With those expectations, HawgBeat thought it’d be good to look back at head coach Sam Pittman’s previous transfer hauls and see how those players performed at Arkansas…
Ty’Kieast Crawford - OL - Charlotte
Back when he was a four-star recruit coming out of Texas, Crawford actually committed to Arkansas, but jumped ship during the 2-10 campaign. The likes of LSU and Texas A&M were after him until grades forced him to sign with a JUCO. However, he ended up qualifying and was a late addition to Charlotte’s 2020 class. Crawford started a handful of games at right tackle as a true freshman for the 49ers before entering the portal and landing at the school he originally committed to. In his first season with the Razorbacks, he was a backup and split his time between tackle and guard.
Trent Gordon - DB - Penn State
A former four-star recruit from Texas, Gordon did not play much during his two seasons at Penn State before entering the portal. The Razorbacks brought him in and expected him to contribute in their secondary, but an injury hindered him for about half the season. He ended up playing only a handful of snaps on defense, despite being listed as the backup nickel most of the year, and has contributed on special teams since getting healthy.
Kade Renfro - QB - Ole Miss
Renfro originally signed with Ole Miss as a 5.5 three-star pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2020. In his lone season with the Rebels, though, he was converted to wide receiver and decided to leave at the end of the year. He landed at Arkansas as a walk-on, giving him the opportunity to play for offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who recruited him while he was in high school. Although he looked good in limited practice viewing periods for the media, Renfro did not make the travel squad in his first season with the Razorbacks.
John Ridgeway - DT - Illinois State
Grades likely prevented Ridgeway from signing with an FBS program out of high school, so he landed at Illinois State just down the road from his hometown. He was very productive for three seasons before entering the portal, where he got a lot of attention. The Razorbacks beat out multiple Power Five programs for his services and he’s been a mainstay on their defensive line this year. It may not show up in traditional statistics, but Ridgeway has been solid in the middle of Arkansas’ 3-man front and has received attention from NFL scouts, even getting an invite to the Senior Bowl. It’s unknown yet if he’ll enter the NFL Draft or return to school as a “super senior.”
Warren Thompson - WR - Florida State
Originally brought in as a walk-on like Renfro, Thompson earned a scholarship from the Razorbacks with a strong performance in fall camp. It’s not surprising considering his credentials, as he was a four-star prospect who signed with Florida State. Even though he wasn’t super productive during his time with the Seminoles, Thompson played for Briles one year and that connection helped him land at Arkansas. He struggled with drops at times, but did catch 18 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns this year. With Treylon Burks leaving, he’ll likely be asked to step into a bigger role in 2022.
Markell Utsey - DL - Missouri
A two-star recruit coming out of Little Rock Parkview in the Class of 2016, Utsey was not recruited by his home state Razorbacks. Instead, he signed with Missouri and was a steady contributor for the Tigers before becoming a starter as a fifth-year senior in 2020. Granted an extra year of eligibility, Utsey opted to pursue other opportunities and returned home to Arkansas, which was looking for defensive line help. Bouncing back and forth between defensive tackle and defensive end, he played significant reps for the Razorbacks this year.
Tre Williams - DE - Missouri
Even after landing Ridgeway and Utsey, the Razorbacks were still looking for defensive linemen - specifically a pass rusher. They found their man in Williams, who had shown glimpses of his four-star talent during a five-year tenure at Missouri. He had actually briefly committed to Houston, but reentered the portal and Arkansas grabbed him the second time around. Much like Utsey, it probably helped that their former head coach, Barry Odom, was now the Razorbacks’ defensive coordinator. Williams was dominant in some games, most notably against Texas A&M, and finished the season with six sacks and, according to Pro Football Focus, a team-high 36 total pressures.
George Caratan - P - Michigan
In his first season as Arkansas’ special teams coordinator, Scott Fountain zeroed in on Caratan, who hadn’t seen the field during his two seasons at Michigan. He won the starting job out of camp and showcased a strong leg, but had two punts blocked and botched the hold on a PAT within the first three weeks of the season. That led to him being replaced by Reid Bauer and Sam Loy, which ultimately prompted him to enter the portal again and transfer to a JUCO.
Jaquayln Crawford - WR - Oklahoma
Required to sit out the 2020 season because of old NCAA transfer rules, Crawford figured to be part of the wide receiver rotation this year and was listed as a second-teamer early on, but he didn’t play much and was eventually replaced by true freshman Bryce Stephens on the travel squad late in the year. He caught just 3 passes for 27 yards this season. Before coming to Arkansas, Crawford was a four-star recruit who signed with Oklahoma. He entered the portal after he failed to crack the depth chart with the Sooners and was asked to convert to defensive back.
Levi Draper - LB - Oklahoma
A former Rivals250 recruit, Draper signed with his home state Sooners in the Class of 2017. However, he mostly played only special teams during three seasons at Oklahoma. Coming to Arkansas with two years of eligibility, there was hope that he’d bolster a thin linebacker room. Unfortunately, he needed shoulder surgery that ended his 2020 campaign and those injuries eventually led to him retiring from the team this fall.
Feleipe Franks - QB - Florida
Having lost his starting job to Kyle Trask, a Heisman Trophy finalist, after suffering a severe injury during the 2019 season, Franks looked elsewhere to finish his college career. The former 6.0 four-star recruit found the perfect place in Arkansas, which had experienced unprecedented instability at quarterback the previous two years. The result was Franks shattering a 41-year-old school record for completion percentage in a single season (68.5%). He also threw for 2,017 yards and 17 touchdowns with only four interceptions in nine games.
Jerry Jacobs - CB - Arkansas State
One of the rare instances of someone transferring from the northeast corner of the state to the northwest corner, Jacobs had a productive two-year stint at Arkansas State before a torn ACL sidelined him. The Razorbacks signed him out of the portal to compete for a starting role somewhere in the secondary and he eventually landed a starting job at cornerback. Unfortunately for him, he got hurt early in the season and his backup - walk-on Hudson Clark - capitalized with a three-interception game against Ole Miss. When it became evident that Clark would remain in the starting lineup, Jacobs opted out. Although he went undrafted, Jacobs signed with the Lions and has actually started nine games as a rookie. (Unfortunately, he suffered what is believed to be a serious knee injury Sunday.)
Xavier Kelly - DT - Clemson
A top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016, Kelly signed with Clemson, but found himself buried behind multiple first-round picks on the Tigers defensive line. He played sparingly over four years before deciding to transfer out. Looking for defensive linemen, Arkansas zeroed in on him and closed out its 2020 signing class by landing him from the portal. Although he never started for the Razorbacks, he was a backup who played extensively.
A.J. Reed - K - Duke
One of the first orders of business for Fountain was finding a replacement for Connor Limpert, the most accurate field goal kicker in UA history. He found his man in Reed, who was coming off a breakout season at Duke in which he made 15 of 18 field goals and all 34 PATs. In his lone season with the Razorbacks, Reed was 7 of 11 on field goals - with a long of 48 yards - and 27 of 29 on PATs.