FAYETTEVILLE — KJ Jefferson has played behind grad transfer quarterbacks his first two seasons at Arkansas, but now he has entered preseason drills atop the depth chart.
In 2019 he played in three games starting one thus preserving his redshirt year. Last season, he backed up Feleipe Franks. When Franks suffered some rib injuries against LSU, Jefferson was cast into a starting role at Missouri. He responded well completing 18 of 33 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. Jefferson also ran 13 times for 32 yards and a touchdown. His start in 2019 was against eventual national champion LSU in Baton Rouge.
“It was a great experience today,” Jefferson said of Arkansas’ first preseason practice. “To me, the overall experience was a great day today. The offense did pretty well. We can correct the few mistakes we had, but overall I feel a good collective effort by the team. We did great.”
Jefferson is listed at 6-foot-3, 245-pounds on the roster, but is actually a little heavier.
“I’m at 247 right now,” Jefferson said. “I at least want to cut down like 10 pounds, try to get probably 235, 230 range, somewhere in there.”
Jefferson will have talented junior wide receiver Treylon Burks to throw to this fall. But the other spots are seemingly open right now. Jefferson talked about the other wide receivers.
“Today, De’Vion Warren showed up big time,” Jefferson said. “Trey Knox also made some good plays today. Blake Kern made some great plays. Trelon Smith also made some plays out of the backfield both running and catching. I feel like as a collective unit the whole nine yards everybody was good.”
Jefferson also hit Warren Thompson for some nice passes on Friday. Jefferson talked about the things he worked on the most this summer.
“Warren is coming along well,” Jefferson said. “He’s getting his confidence each and every day. He’s new to this whole system and whole program. He will come along pretty well once he gets his confidence up and be an asset to the team.
Sam Pittman feels that Thompson will only get better once he gets rid of a nagging injury he has.
“He’s got a little bit of a ham right now, so I don’t know that we saw the full Warren Thompson today,” Pittman said. “Great kid. Works hard. Wonderful looking kid. 6-4, 6-4 1/2, 220. He looks like an outside receiver. He’s just a little beat up in the ham. Once we get that fixed, we’ll know a little more about him.”
Pittman credit Kendal Briles and his one year at Florida State, where Thompson transferred from, for getting him to Arkansas.
“That certainly helped once he went into the portal, that certainly helped,” Pittman said of Briles’ relationship with Thompson. “I didn’t know a whole lot about him. To take kids off a high school tape out of the portal, when they’ve been in college for a year or two, it’s hard. It’s hard for me. I want to take a kid that I’ve seen do something in a college game. So, at that point we tried to get him to come walk on, and if he earned a scholarship, we certainly have one available. Kendal obviously coached him there at Florida State.”
“This offseason, the main thing I was mainly working on was the little small details like getting extra hours in film room and the weight room with Coach (Jamil) Walker, working out, doing different stuff with my shoulder work, mobility,” Jefferson said. “Just the little things that will separate me.”
As far as bulking up this summer and the conditioning how do you feel in those categories?
“Conditioning wise, I still feel I can be in better shape,” Jefferson said. “I’m trying to cut down on a little weight I gained over the summer. But as far as working out, I feel like I put on a lot of muscle mass, but I want to at least cut down on the body fat percent.”
Pittman was asked how the first preseason practice went and he had some praise for his six quarterbacks.
“I thought our team was in good shape,” Pittman said. “It was hot, obviously. We got a good two-hour practice in, two hours and ten minutes maybe. I thought our quarterbacks were very accurate. I thought our protection was better. We played hard. Our transition needs to get better. Our moving on the field between plays needs to get better. That’ll come. A lot of times that’s a first practice problem that our kids will fix. They do everything we ask them to do. They just need to understand the expectation, and they will. I was very pleased with today’s practice.”
Pittman then once again praised the quarterbacks.
“That’s probably the thing I was most excited about today, was our quarterbacks’ accuracy,” Pittman said. “I thought KJ did a nice job in there. You can go look down the line, I thought Malik (Hornsby) had a good day. I thought John Stephen Jones made some really good plays. (Lucas) Coley, (Kade) Renfro, and I was really excited to see Landon Rogers. He made some really nice long ball throws down the field. With that, I think Jaedon Wilson at receiver had a nice day, too. It was good to see him catch some balls and get behind some defensive backs.”
Arkansas will return to the practice fields on Saturday. The Razorbacks open the season on Saturday, Sept. 4, in Reynolds Razorback Stadium hosting Rice at 1 p.m.