Until Sunday, Arkansas football had mostly received the negative of the old chestnut: the portal taketh away.
But on Sunday the front end of Job 1:21 comes to bore fruit. With commitments from two highly-acclaimed transfers in Alabama linebacker Drew Sanders and LSU cornerback Dwight McGlothern. Arkansas finally got the portal ‘giveth’ it needed.
As expected, the two Arkansas defensive backs who hit the transfer portal last week picked their destination as one in the SEC. Safety Joe Foucha committed to transfer to LSU on Wednesday and nickel back Greg Brooks Jr. did the same on Thursday. Both were two-plus-year starters in the Razorbacks secondary but chose to play their final seasons, being Louisiana natives, back close to home.
But on Sunday, Dwight McGlothern reversed that pipeline with his commitment to the Razorbacks. In 2021, he started 6 games for the Tigers and tallied 32 tackles, two tackles for loss, five pass breakups and an interception. McGlothern was a four-star recruit who ultimately signed with LSU over offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, USC and several others.
He helps deepen the Razorbacks in the secondary where they still need help. Arkansas will return just two starters from a secondary that could have returned all five, but McGlothern is a clear candidate to take a starting job. Arkansas still must replace its three primary starting defensive linemen and a linebacker spot.
Fortunately for Razorback fans, it looks like one of those spots was taken today when former five-star recruit Drew Sanders committed. The 6-5, 244 pound Sanders started three games for Alabama in 2021 and had 24 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, one quarterback sack and two passes defensed.
This is also a big get for the Hogs’ special teams. Alabama coaches named Sanders special teams player of the week four times, including three as a freshman.
This is a great start in the portal if the Hogs want to make good on FOX Sports analyst Joel Klatt’s way-too-early Top-10 ranking for 2022. “Assuming unsigned safety commit Myles Rowser signs next month, which is expected, Arkansas now has room for only three more players in its 2022 class,” according to Hawgbeat’s Andrew Hutchinson. “It will likely use those remaining spots on more transfers.”
Here’s a list of four potential choices for those three spots. We’re looking at who could make the biggest impact in 2022.
1. Cam Bright
Linebacker – Pittsburgh
He may not be as heralded around these parts as Drew Sanders, and may not have as much upside, even, especially considering he has but one season of college football eligibility remaining. But a three-year starter for a team that finished 2021 as the No. 13 team in the nation is a commodity that can’t be ignored.
Bright checks in at the top of this list because of his experience and Arkansas’ lack of it at the position, even if he isn’t the best player available at the position. Sanders has more years remaining and by virtue of being an Alabama player and former Alabama recruit, the pedigree is a given. Bright has already proven his worth at the top level, however, whereas Sanders has been a reserve (save for three starts he picked up with the Crimson Tide.)
The former Pittsburgh Panthers linebacker is on the smaller side at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, but he brings potential as a fast pass-rusher off the edge at the position, something Arkansas hasn’t had since Randy Ramsey flashed such potential almost a decade ago.
2. Mekhi Wingo
Defensive tackle – Missouri
Wingo is a former 3-star recruit who came on strong for Missouri as a freshman in 2021.
Wingo, a 6-foot-1, 275-pound first-year player from St. Louis (DeSmet HS), tallied 27 total tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, one quarterback sack, one interception that he returned for a touchdown and two quarterback hurries.
Those numbers slot him into the Arkansas defensive line, which is needing help after John Ridgeway, Tre Williams and Markell Utsey left. Ridgeway spent just one season with the Razorbacks after transferring from Illinois State, but he turned that season into a potential NFL draft selection as he elected to skip a super-senior year for the professional ranks. Wingo may not be a game-changer or All-American, but considering how much Williams and Utsey meant to the Hogs defense in 2021, the potential Arkansas football transfer fits the same bill.
3. Deion Smith
Wide receiver – LSU
Is Smith considering Arkansas? Mum’s the word. Very little has come out about where the Tigers wideout would consider landing, but for these purposes, let’s throw Arkansas in the mix. And that isn’t just for fun. Consider a few factors.
For one, need. Arkansas landed Jadon Haselwood from Oklahoma quickly after the regular season ended. He is unquestionably the No. 1 wideout on the roster when camp opens in the spring as Treylon Burks’ replacement. But besides Burks, Arkansas is also going to be without its No. 2 and No. 3 receivers in Tyson Morris and De’Vion Warren who have exhausted their eligibility. The way the roster stands right now, Warren Thompson is the team’s No. 2. Thompson is a good player, but probably not an ideal No. 2 after getting a scholarship only in late September and catching 19 passes for 304 yards and two scores in 2021.
Smith would be far from a lock to take over that gig, but former top-100 recruits don’t fall off trees. He’s a Mississippi native, like Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson, too. Plus, it would be a bit of schadenfreude for the Razorbacks to poach a player from the Tigers after losing Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks Jr. this week.
4. Ochaun Mathis
Defensive end – TCU
Arkansas has depth on the defensive line even with the loss of Ridgeway, end Tre Williams and end/tackle Markell Utsey. At least five lineman who played semi-regular snaps in 2021 will return in 2022. But few have regular starting experience.
Mathis would bring that and a pass-rushing edge. He had just four sacks for Texas Christian last year, but nine the year before. And he’s a pure end, not a ‘tweener like current Razorback Eric Gregory (who, we will add, will undoubtedly be a regular in next year’s Arkansas rotation up front). If defensive coordinator Barry Odom is seeking a replacement for Williams, Mathis is a strong possibility.