FAYETTEVILLE — Defensive lineman Markell Utsey chose Arkansas after entering the transfer portal and for a former Little Rock Parkview standout it wasn’t a hard choice.
Utsey met with the media following Tuesday’s practice and talked about his recruiting when he opted to leave Missouri.
“I feel like it was a great opportunity for me to play in the SEC and play back home,” Utsey said. “I obviously have the opportunity to play for coach (Barry) Odom again. Just being back home closer to family. I feel like it was a great opportunity for success.”
In five years at Missouri, four under Odom, Utsey played in 42 games with 14 starts. He had 40 tackles, including four for loss, a sack, one forced fumble, a quarterback hurry and broke up a pass. Utsey didn’t need a visit to know Arkansas was where he wanted to finish his career.
“For me, I didn’t take a visit when I hit the portal,” Utsey said. “I’ve been here when I was younger, of course, but with COVID and stuff going on and the timing I hit the transfer portal, it was kind of just going off faith. I knew what was here. I really didn’t have to see it. I had faith in it.”
Utsey continued to mention Odom as a reason he opted for the Hogs over some others.
“I definitely had a couple of schools looking at me in a couple different conferences,” Utsey said. “Then after a while I just thought about weighing my options. The biggest thing was just coming back home for my last year and being able to play with Coach Odom. I felt that was going to be a great opportunity. So I said, ‘Why not?’ I felt like it was going to be the best opportunity presented to me so I took it.”
As far as his spot on the depth chart, Utsey is just ready to help the team.
“Right now, I see myself doing whatever I need to do to help this team,” Utsey said. “I’m a big team guy. I put the team first. So, whatever the coaches need me to do, I sacrifice to that. Wherever they put me I just give it my all, 100 percent effort. Whatever helps the team. Whether it’s with the ones, with the threes, on special teams or whatever it may be, just give it my all.”
Utsey was joined at Arkansas by defensive end Tre Williams. Was that something to two planned or just worked out this way?
“Actually I didn’t even know that Tre was actually considering Arkansas until I talked to him,” Utsey said. “After hitting the portal I’m just blessed to have him here. He was my roommate my freshman year at Mizzou. I’ve been playing with him ever since and we’re real tight so he made it easy for me adjusting to the whole program. Just having somebody here for me as close as we were. That’s a big deal for me.”
He and Williams were close when the pair played for the Tigers. Utsey expects Williams to have a very good season this fall.
“He’s a good player,” Utsey said. “He’s real fast, he’s strong, he’s got great size and I feel like coming off the edge, he’s a monster. I feel like it’s going to be hard to stop him this year.”
While at Missouri from 2016-2020, Utsey was 5-0 against the Razorbacks.
“It’s definitely been a thought, but I just feel like I approach every game the same,” Utsey said. “Just prepare myself to dominate every game, make sure I’m healthy, just play hard, just give it my all and leave it all out on the field. I feel like just taking that same approach to the Mizzou game, nothing’s going to change. I just want to go out there, ball, have fun and obviously get a dub, but that’s kind of obvious. But nothing else than any other game.”
But if Arkansas beats Missouri this year you will end up 6-0 in this series?
“Yeah, that’d be nice,” Utsey said.
Utsey and the Razorbacks will practice this afternoon. The Hogs open the season Saturday, Sept. 4, at home against Rice with a 1 p.m. kickoff.