NWADG College Football


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12 NWA COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW | 8.29.2021 OFFENSE QUARTERBACK KJ Jefferson's time has come. The redshirt sophomore seems custom- made for the Kendal Briles offense, with its multitude of run-pass option reads. It seems unlikely Jefferson could challenge his predecessor Feleipe Franks' single-season school record of 68.5% completions. However, part of that is because he will likely be more willing to run when his reads don't lead to an open target, or throw passes away when he's in jeopardy. Jefferson had a huge outing at Missouri in his only full game as a collegian, accounting for 4 touchdowns and 306 yards. He became the first Razorback with 3 passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown since Ryan Mallett in 2010. Malik Hornsby was up and down in camp, but he appeared to be holding off Kade Renfro, John Stephen Jones and Lucas Coley for the top backup role. Running quarterbacks should give the Razorbacks a dimension they have lacked since Matt Jones tore it up as a dual threat in the early 2000s. Franks' 204 rushing yards last year were the most since Jones. RUNNING BACK This group took some hits during camp, with returning starter Trelon Smith missing time with an undisclosed issue. Additionally, freshman AJ Green sat out for a span that included missing the first scrimmage, and sophomore speedster Josh Oglesby had a foot injury Aug. 17. That combination of events thrust true freshman Raheim "Rocket" Sanders into a first-team slot, likely ensuring the 6-2, 225-pounder would be in the rotation early. Smith's credentials are established as a 710-yard rusher last year who essentially outperformed 1,300-yard rusher Rakeem Boyd starting early in the season. Smith's 5-9, 190-pound frame withstood the rigors of inside-outside duty, and he added another 159 receiving yards and performed well in pass protection. Dominique Johnson could be a banger at 235 pounds, and Javion Hunt is a quality freshman. T.J. Hammonds repped more at receiver but could always return to the backfield. Position coach Jimmy Smith had a loaded group to open camp, and that looks like a good thing. WIDE RECEIVER Position coach Kenny Guiton and his charges say there will be plenty of options to take pressure off top target Treylon Burks, who made a name for himself as a sophomore with 51 catches for 820 yards and 7 TDs in what amounted to 8 games. Whether or not a consistent threat emerges elsewhere will only be determined on game day. Trey Knox is aiming to bounce back from a disappointing sophomore season, while senior De'Vion Warren is coming off knee surgery. Tyson Morris and Kendall Catalon look like players whose contributions could improve dramatically. Among the freshmen, Ketron Jackson and Bryce Stephens have had standout moments in camp. John David White wins a lot of one- on-one reps and just finds a way to get open. Jaquayln Crawford is one of the team's fastest players, but he's dropped a few balls in camp. Transfer Warren Thompson's 6-3 frame looks the part, so perhaps he can help. The competition for the travel roster will be keen with 14 players vying for playing time. TIGHT END Blake Kern and Hudson Henry, who split 10 starts at this spot last year, made a prime duo for new position coach Dowell Loggains to inherit. However, the experience behind those two is almost nonexistent. Sophomore Nathan Bax logged 141 snaps of special teams work and two snaps on offense. Kern is the most physical of the unit's blockers, but must be a more consistent pass catcher. Henry has strong route running and catching skills, but he has to improve as a blocker. Bax seems destined for a bigger role on offense. The coaching staff is hoping a position switch for Koilan Jackson, who has battled a knee injury throughout his college career, could lead ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS POSITION ANALYSIS BY TOM MURPHY NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler Trelon Smith catches a pass during a recent Arkansas practice. Smith gained 710 yards in 2020. See POSITION, Page 14

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