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State of the Hog: Razorback Summer Practice

The Arkansas Razorback football team reports to practice on Friday to begin its second season under head coach Sam Pittman. The Hogs won three conference games for the first time since 2016, ended a 20-game SEC losing streak and lost three games by a combined six points.

Quarterback is a questionable position for most but KJ Jefferson seems to have a tight grip on the starting spot as practices begin. During SEC Media Days, Pittman was complimentary of Jefferson.

“KJ Jefferson is our quarterback. Does he have competition? You’re dang right he has competition,” said Pittman.

Jefferson displayed his ability to run the Kendal Briles offense effectively in a two-point loss to Missouri at the end of the 2020 season. With the confidence from the head coach it is obvious it will trickle down to the staff and also to the team. His physical growth (6’3 240) and the tools he displays gives Arkansas a chance to be really good offensively.
Questions among the defensive line are obvious but with the transfer portal they were able to fill some gaps. John Ridgeway (tackle), Markell Utsey (tackle) and Tre Williams (end) will likely play a role during practice to provide Arkansas more depth than in recent seasons. If they can pick up the defensive scheme of coordinator Barry Odom this position group may be the surprise of the team. Returnees include a pair of legacy players in Zach Williams and Mataio Soli. Also, Isaiah Nichols should be a starter at one of the tackle positions. Eric Gregory gives Arkansas options as he can play any of the positions on the line. Taurean Carter out of Mansfield, Texas played throughout the season recording 11 tackles.

Burning Questions

Pittman said that Arkansas is defending champions of the toughest schedule in college football. The Hogs will again play the toughest schedule with home games against Texas and Auburn. Plus, road games against Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Georgia make it the hardest schedule by a mile. The head hog embraces it head on but will make it tough to win enough games to be eligible for a bowl game.

“Not so fast” as Lee Corso would say. Arkansas is good enough to win six games. They are also good enough to sneak out a win or two against a teams that no one picked them to.

Georgia will be a tough game to win as they have a what looks like the top offense in the SEC returning. Odom’s defense have a history of vastly improving in year two under his tutelage. That will keep Arkansas in games enough to upset somebody. Pittman knows enough about Georgia as anyone in the conference so I’d give Arkansas a chance to win, maybe a slim one to win it.

Currently I see Arkansas winning six to eight games. That’s counting wins versus Rice, Georgia Southern, Mississippi State, Auburn, UAPB, Missouri, Ole Miss and an upset over either LSU, Texas A&M or Georgia.

Ha! That’s a good question. I doubt that they will just because they have the throwback Darren McFadden jerseys and there wasn’t an alternate uniform for that one. If Arkansas chose to go all red at some point I wouldn’t be against it. That’s a sharp look that hasn’t been worn in quite some time.

I believe Malik Hornsby is the only answer for QB2. He is a great option in case…Hog Heaven forbid Jefferson sustains an injury. He’s clearly talented with elite track speed and a rocket arm to be a force once Jefferson leaves.

Kolian Jackson was moved to tight end this spring with a hope that he could find a spot on the depth chart. He will provide said depth but finding the PT this season will be hard to come by with Hudson Henry and Blake Kern.

If they haven’t already worked on figuring out a way to keep Jalen Catalon in games without being ejected they need to. I’m sure it was a primary focus individually for him. He is a key peg to this defense and where he goes they follow. Arkansas needs their leader on the field and I doubt he finds himself ejected.

The Razorbacks have experienced disturbing play in the special units recently but it has to end soon. Coordinator Scott Fountain is too good of a coach for his unit not to be improved in 2021. They need to find a quality return man, consistently kick the ball through the endzone and
¡FIELD GOAL PROTECTION! needs to be made a priority! If they fix all that they should be fine.

I really like De’Vion Warren and Trey Knox being your number two guys. Knox seems to be “bought in” as far as being a total wide receiver. Warren was a solid player while Treylon Burks was out with injury which included nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns against Mississippi State and Auburn.
Obviously, losing Mike Woods hurts but Arkansas isn’t completely void of talent behind Burks. Arkansas has plenty of guys on the roster to watch for including JD White, Ketron Jackson, Tyson Morris and Oklahoma transfer Jaquaylin Crawford.

Arkansas added a key piece in (Tre) Williams like I mentioned earlier. He played in 11 games for Missouri in 2019 making eight starts. Williams recorded 24 tackles, three tackles for a loss and one sack.

(Zach) Williams could be a first game starter, too. He had a solid first four games of 2020 last season with 19 tackles, 1.5 for a loss and one sack.

Dorian Gerald is the elder statesman of the group with tremendous upside. The downfall of his career as a Hog is the injury bug hath hit him hard. We haven’t seen him put together a whole season yet in his career so 2021 will be his last chance.

Jashaud Stewart is a forgotten man from the 2020 class. He was dubbed a “violent hitter” by Richard Davenport early on in his recruitment out of Jonesboro High.

Arkansas’ running back room is certainly deeper than last years group. Albeit young but led by senior Trelon Smith (869 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns) they’re poised to be a positive group this season. Dominique Johnson is currently the second back while Rocket Sanders and TJ Hammonds split your third team reps.
AJ Green is a guy that will come in and get reps right away. The four-star out of Oklahoma was the prize egg of the 2021 class. He has elite speed and if the offensive line can open up holes Green will find the endzone a few times this fall.

Arkansas begins their season against Rice on September 4, 2021. The contest will be aired at 1 PM on ESPN+.

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