Recruiting Guy

SMU transfer set to visit Fayetteville

Arkansas offensive line coach Eric Mateos speaks, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023, during a press conference at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. Visit for today’s photo gallery..(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

The University of Arkansas is expected to host Branson Hickman, the nation's top interior offensive line transfer, for an official visit starting March 8.

Hickman, a graduate transfer from SMU, officially entered the NCAA transfer portal Jan. 29. While the portal was open from Dec. 4 to Jan. 2, graduate transfers are allowed to enter the portal at anytime.

He said he planned to visit Arkansas after entering the portal and announced Feb. 22 when he would actually make his visit to Fayetteville.

Hickman, 6-3 and 294 pounds, attended Jesuit College Prep in Dallas before signing with SMU in 2020 as a consensus 3-star prospect.

"I have some friends who go to Arkansas," Hickman said. "A lot of people from my high school go there. One of my roommates is actually from there. I went with him last spring to just hang out with him and his family and visit some of my friends. I really liked the campus and area. I could really see myself playing there one day and now the opportunity is here, so I'm very interested."

His father, Brandon Hickman, will be in his 14th season as the head coach for Jesuit in the fall and 20th year overall with the school. A Houston native, the elder Hickman was an All-Southwest Conference offensive tackle for TCU in the 1990s.

Branson Hickman spoke more about what attracts him to Fayetteville and the surrounding area.

"I didn't know what Fayetteville would be like at all honestly when I went there last spring. ... It was really nice," Hickman said. "The nature and stuff like driving in from Dallas and all the mountains and the trees, it was cool, really cool. And I didn't realize how nice the town is."

A preseason mention on the 2023 Rimington Trophy watchlist, Hickman started all 14 games last season as a junior for the Mustangs while earning second-team All-AAC honors. He started all 12 games played at center during the 2022 season as a sophomore and started 7 of 9 games as a freshman.

Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman's reputation as an offensive line coach -- along with hearing good things from former high school teammate and current Baylor lineman Ryan Lengyel about offensive line coach Eric Mateos -- helped get the Hogs a visit.

"Coach Pittman has been very successful putting offensive linemen in the [NFL] and Coach Mateos when he was at Baylor, he coached one of my high school teammates and he had nothing but good things to say about him," Hickman said. "So I feel very comfortable getting to know him and just based off of what I've heard, he sounds like a great coach and someone that's fun to play for."'s industry ranking rates Hickman as the No. 1 interior offensive lineman in the portal and the No. 15 overall transfer.

He said he plans to take other visits.

"I have a few officials [visits] set up, but I'm kind of keeping it under wraps with who just out of respect for some of the coaches that really don't want it to be talked about but I'm visiting schools from all the Power 4 conferences," Hickman said. "So a pretty wide variety."

Hickman also said his friends who attend the UA are pumped about him making his way to Fayetteville.

"They're all really excited," he said. "They're excited for me to visit too. It will be fun to see some of the people I grew up with. They're just like 'We need linemen' and they're excited about the season, so I'm excited to have a chance to be a part of it."

He mentioned the role Mateos sees him in should he become a Razorback.

"Just talks about competing and they're looking for a guy that can snap the ball and has played with a lot of experience," he said. "I fit that role and he's excited about what he thinks I can do and how I can develop in his scheme and the way he coaches his players."

Hickman, who has one year of eligibility remaining, gave a rundown of what he desires in his next school.

"What I'm comfortable with and what my family likes, too," Hickman said. "My parents obviously play a big role in this and I want to go where I'm wanted and what I feel like is the best fit for me, and I can see Arkansas being a place like that."

Should Hickman become a Hog, he would join an already impressive offensive line transfer haul Arkansas has landed thus far. Former Tennessee lineman Addison Nichols is on campus and is the No. 10 industry ranking interior offensive line transfer.

Arkansas' two other transfer signees, former San Jose State lineman Fernando Carmona, is the No. 7-rated offensive tackle transfer, while former Michigan State transfer Keyshawn Blackstock is also rated the No. 10 offensive tackle transfer by industry ranking.

Hickman said he will likely make his decision in April.

"Probably mid-April, mid to late April," Hickman said. "Depending how long it gets dragged out, but I want to make it sooner rather than later."

Email Richard Davenport at

  photo  Branson Hickman