Docile Razorbacks Need to Find Fight for This One

SEC's desire to get rid of walk-on programs not one Arkansas can let slide
Arkansas linebacker Grant Morgan leaves the stage after his appearance in the main media room in the Hyatt Regency during SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., July 22, 2021.
Arkansas linebacker Grant Morgan leaves the stage after his appearance in the main media room in the Hyatt Regency during SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., July 22, 2021. / Gary Cosby Jr. via Imagn Content

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – For those who were too involved in Arkansas' regional baseball appearance last week to keep up with the SEC spring meetings, one of the big topics of discussion was to cut walk-on programs in the league in favor of a football roster made strictly of 85 scholarship players.

This is largely a reaction to the upcoming expected move toward revenue sharing with players. However, it's shocking that a league that boasts some of the most successful walk-ons of all time would be willing to abandon the program despite the circumstances.

The award for the nation's best walk-on is literally named for SEC star and former Razorback Brandon Burlsworth, a Hogs obsessed offensive lineman who became a first round NFL draft pick before tragically dying on a car crash a few weeks later.

Two of the most successful college quarterbacks of the past decade were walk-ons. Stetson Bennett, a two-time national championship quarterback at Georgia, won the Burlsworth Award in 2022. Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield, who twice walked on, once at Texas Tech where he became a starter and a second time at SEC newcomer Oklahoma, fittingly won the award twice in 2015 and 2016, then narrowly missed out on the national championship game in a double overtime loss to Georgia in the playoff semifinals at the Rose Bowl.

Even this past season, upstart Missouri, which pulled head coach Eli Drinkwitz off the hot seat with a surprising 11-win season, did it on the back of 1,600+ yard rusher and former walk-on Cody Schrader. Without him, it's highly likely the four wins of a touchdown or less are reversed and Drinkwitz is left to face a 7-6 season with multiple bad losses to non-Power Five or seriously struggling teams.

As for Arkansas, many of its best players the last several years have been walk-ons. Each were local athletes who grew up loving the Razorbacks who just needed a chance to develop in an SEC training program to overcome some of the things Arkansas schools don't have that high school programs in other states do to advance player development.

Linebacker Grant Morgan dominated the SEC with over 100 tackles each of final two seasons at Arkansas. He capped off his career by becoming the first Razorback to win the Burlsworth in 2021.

Without him and fellow walk-on linebacker Hayden Henry, the Hogs wouldn't have been able to pull off the best season a decade when Arkansas won nine games. There is no Sam Pittman sitting on a throne surrounded by trophies without walk-ons because not only are 100+ tackles from Morgan missing, but Henry's 100 tackles roll off the stat sheet as well.

On the offensive side, perhaps the most consistently successful Arkansas receiver since the Bobby Petrino recruits outside of Treylon Burks was Morgan's older brother, Drew. He put up 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final two seasons as he ventured to No. 7 on the Razorbacks' all-time receptions list in only three seasons.

The history of college football, especially in the SEC, is written largely by walk-ons being given a chance to prove their worth and develop. Football at Arkansas would be even more bleak in recent years than it already is without a strong walk-on program.

The Hogs would be at full Vanderbilt status without it. So often the Razorbacks athletics department tries to lay low and go with the flow, but that can't happen on this matter.

It's the one time Arkansas will need to make a stand and ruffle a few feathers. Without walk-ons, there isn't much of a future for the Razorbacks in the SEC. 
They simply do too much heavy lifting for the program.


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Kent Smith


Kent Smith has been in the world of media and film for nearly 30 years. From Nolan Richardson's final seasons, former Razorback quarterback Clint Stoerner trying to throw to anyone and anything in the blazing heat of Cowboys training camp in Wichita Falls, the first high school and college games after 9/11, to Troy Aikman's retirement and Alex Rodriguez's signing of his quarter billion dollar contract, Smith has been there to report on some of the region's biggest moments.