FAYETTEVILLE — Despite players leaving schools all over the nation since the transfer portal has been put in place fans still take to social media to freakout and the sky is falling for some and this year isn’t expected to be any different.
Sam Pittman warned this upcoming Monday will be the day he meets with his current players and said it could be a busy day for reporters who cover the Razorbacks. Freshman running back James Jointer left the team Monday and more will follow in the coming days.
The players can’t officially enter the transfer portal until Dec. 5, but they can announce their intentions at any time. Pittman talked about the upcoming Monday meeting with his players.
“I’ve got a lot of exit meetings coming up Monday,” Pittman said. “And that’ll be … you guys know, us and everybody in the world, that’ll be a blow-up day, now. It’s going to be the transfer portal, who’s going to come back. You have seniors [making decisions]. It’s going to be a lot of action. Y’all need to get to sleep on Sunday.
“There’s going to be a lot of action going on, and it’s not just here. It’s everywhere in the country.”
This will be the first year of the NCAA doing away with the 25 scholarships per year a school can give out. A school is allowed to have 85 players on scholarship at one time. This year, a school can sign as many players as they have openings under the 85 limit. This is like basketball where a school is allowed 13 to be on scholarship in men’s hoops. Eric Musselman brought in 11 new players this past recruiting class with just two returning. They are currently undefeated and ranked No. 9 in the nation.
So while Arkansas will be losing players to the transfer portal they will also go there to restock the roster. Several key Razorbacks this season have been players signed out of the transfer portal last year.
One concern at Arkansas and other schools is how rosters could be decimated before the bowl game since the transfer portal opens on Dec. 5. All bowl games are well after that date.
“I think that was the original concern about the portal, where you put the opening at, because we knew in coaching that you would go to bowls, possibly — if you’re not in the playoffs — you would go to bowls possibly with, it could be 15, 20 guys that aren’t there,” Pittman said. “It could be 10, it could be 5, whatever, but you could certainly decrease your roster big time between the portal, between opting out. It’s not going to be the same team, like I said last year about Penn State, about (James) Franklin’s team. It wasn’t… Nor was ours. We didn’t have (Treylon) Burks and Tre Williams and those guys. But I think, to be honest with you, you have to have it at this time so the kids who elect to get in the transfer portal can get recruited at another school.”
Pittman also went into how the conversations go with players at this time of year.
“Now, if you’re in the transfer portal, we won’t take you to a bowl game,” Pittman said. “To me, if you get in on the 5th, that means you need that time. There would be no reason to get in the transfer portal and wait until after the bowl, in all honesty. Unless you just want to go to the bowl, but now you only have four days in January that you could find another school. If they know they’re going to transfer, they come in and do it the right way, then we’ll help them find, If they want, we’ll help them.
“Just because kids go in the portal does not necessarily mean they’re disgruntled with the program. Drew Sanders, I don’t think he was disgruntled with Alabama. I think he wanted playing time, he wanted to maybe move his position, whatever. The world looks at everybody who goes in the portal as the worst thing in the world and I really don’t. I look at it as maybe he sees on the depth chart, he’s not going to play for 2-3 years, maybe ever, and decides to go into the portal. To answer your question, if they go in the portal, they won’t go to the bowl. If they don’t go in the portal, obviously we can’t assume if they’re going to go after the bowl or not. We’re going to talk to them, but that’s kind of our deal. And if you’re going to go to the draft and you’re not going to play in the bowl, I believe that you need that time to start preparing for the combine and all those things. Like Burks, we didn’t take him last year. He understood. But if you’re not going to participate because of your choosing, then we don’t take you.”
Pittman is hoping any player who heads to the bowl game will be with the team going forward.
“Yeah, to be honest with you, I’m hoping that if they’re on the flight out to wherever it may be, I’m hoping that that’s our team,” Pittman said. “And there is some quality good things for that too, because you have however many, you know, 15 days depending on what bowl you go to, to practice and you pretty much know ‘Hey, this is bowl practice, but it’s also spring practice with new guys sprinkled in.'”
Pittman was asked about one particular player safety Jalen Catalon who was injured against Cincinnati and out for the season.
“I don’t want to steal what he wants to do,” Pittman said. “I would suppose here after the game, he’ll put something out about his return or his not return. I don’t want to steal his thunder on either one of those things. But we’re in a really good place with Jalen. He’s been away for a while. He had those two injuries. I told him to just take some time off, get healed, do all those things. So, I’ve obviously had the conversation with him, and I’ll let him tell y’all when he’s ready to tell y’all what his decision is going to be, whether he comes back or declares for the league.”
Among the players who left the Hogs last year were kickoff specialist Vito Calvaruso and then defensive backs Greg Brooks and Joe Foucha as well as several others. Calvaruso went to Wisconsin while Brooks and Foucha headed to LSU.
The transfers Pittman and his staff brought in who played key roles were wide receivers Jadon Haselwood (Oklahoma) and Matt Landers (Toledo), kickoff specialist Jake Bates (Texas State), safety Latavious Brini (Georgia), defensive end Jordan Domineck (Georgia Tech), defensive lineman Terry Hampton (Arkansas State), defensive end Landon Jackson (LSU), cornerback Dwight McGlothern (LSU) and linebacker Drew Sanders (Alabama).