FAYETTEVILLE — Jordan Domineck’s first practice with Arkansas football did not go well. The Georgia Tech transfer defensive end wasn’t on campus for spring ball, so his first appearance in Razorback red came in preseason practices. It was a shock to the system for the redshirt senior.
During a team meeting, Coach Sam Pittman did his usual routine. They showed the team practice footage of “effort plays” — both good effort and bad. Early in preseason practice, Domineck was the bad.
“They just didn’t know how to practice like we like to practice,” Pittman said in August. “I actually put it up in front of the team and said, ‘Since 1902, this is the worst D-line rep I’ve ever seen. I told them I went back in the Archives to 1902 of every high school, every college … I was mad.”
What followed was nothing short of a metamorphosis. Domineck answered the challenge from Pittman, and his effort didn’t waive from then on. Pittman praised him for the improved effort, and the results showed as soon as the season began.
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In Arkansas’ opener against Cincinnati, Domineck had a strip sack and recovered the fumble himself. It was a heads-up play that earned him SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors.
He followed it up with another sack against South Carolina then 2.5 sacks and seven tackles against Missouri State in Week 3. Along with the team’s sack leader, linebacker Drew Sanders, Domineck has been a key factor in a defense that leads the country with 17 sacks .
Pittman said Domineck chose to transfer because he wanted to see if he was “good enough” to play in the SEC, according to Pittman. Through three games, he’s certainly looked good enough. Domineck’s four sacks so far have already equaled his previous season-high from his sophomore year with the Yellow Jackets. He’ll get his first SEC West test on Saturday (6 pm CT, ESPN) when the No. 10 Razorbacks (3-0, 1-0 SEC) play No. 20 Texas A&M (2-1) in Arlington, Texas.
“He’s a playmaker,” safety Simeon Blair said. “He’s a go-getter. He’s going to make sure that he does his job, and if the ball gets out to the perimeter, he’s going to run out there and do that job, too.”
An impact transfer
Domineck is one of nine new transfers getting consistent playing time for the Razorbacks and one of three on the defensive line. Arkansas’ depth chart at defensive line is led by returners, but the group has been rotating frequently with a number of players seeing significant snaps.
The difference between the Domineck who started preseason practice and the Domineck who is flying to the quarterback now has been “night and day,” Pittman said. They said the problem early on wasn’t that Domineck wasn’t a Talented player, it was that he wasn’t prepared for the way Arkansas practices. Every transfer player has to make that adjustment and become acclimated to their new team.
Georgia Tech finished 3-9 in each of the past three seasons. Playing for a nine-win SEC team was, naturally, different.
“It’s a very different vibe,” Domineck said in a radio appearance on Sam Pittman Live. “The cohesion we have out here just as a unit, the whole team, not just certain individual groups. … Anybody can go up and share advice with everybody, and Everybody’s willing to listen.”
Arkansas was the first school to reach out to Domineck when he entered the transfer portal, he said. He was drawn to the idea of an SEC atmosphere, the way Pittman had built up the program, and the university’s physical therapy program. He hopes to become a physical therapist after football and open his own practice.
After one game in front of the Razorback Stadium crowd, Domineck knew he’d made the right choice.
“It was really electric, something that I’ve really never seen before up close and personal,” Domineck said after the opener. “You’ll always see a bunch of places where you can see on TV the crowds are getting into it, but it’s nothing like actually feeling the electricity in the air that was there.”