FAYETTEVILLE — Sophomore wide receiver Ketron Jackson Jr. has stepped up this season to become one of the key targets for quarterback KJ Jefferson.

In five games, Jackson has seven receptions for 151 yards and two touchdowns with a long catch of 64 yards. Against Texas A&M, Jackson caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from Jefferson to start the scoring on the night. Against Alabama, Jackson caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Jefferson with 21 seconds remaining in the first half. That touchdown ignited some momentum for the Hogs that they used to rally in the third quarter to pull within 28-23 of the Tide. Sam Pittman talked about Jackson having touchdown catches the past two games.

Ketron is one of the most improved guys on the team. I mean, he’s always been a good player, but he seems to be coming into his own. Catching hard passes, getting open more. He’s always been a great blocker, a hard effort guy. 

“I think he’s one of the most improved guys on our team,” Pittman said. “He’s playing with confidence now. There’s a little bit of that, because he was starting in fall camp and I think Matt (Landers) beat him out, and it was a big lesson learned there. He didn’t go in the tank or anything like that, and now he’s playing even better ball than what I thought he would at this point and time. I think he’s got a lot of upside.”

Pittman has said the passing game has got to get better. He feels Jackson is one of the keys to getting that done.

“Well, I hope he just keeps getting better and better and better,” Pittman said. “A lot of times your passing game dictates a little bit about how you’re running the ball and things of that nature, but also dictates who you’re playing. If teams are able to man cover you because they’ve got really good corners like Alabama did, it makes it much more difficult. You can find a little more spaces in zone coverage and certainly you can exploit corners that you feel like you’re better than. I thought Alabama had really good corners.

“And we weren’t throwing it and catching it. We weren’t throwing it as well as what we have in the past either. But I think he’s going to be a big part of that and we have to air the ball out more than we have, even though I think we’re running it well. We’ve got to open up our offense a little bit more.”

Running back Rocket Sanders isn’t surprised that Jackson is having success this season.

“Well, Ketron, I feel like he always had that in him,” Sanders said. “At practice, he’s quiet, and he’s a go-getter. I definitely believe in him and I feel like he’s going to have a great year.”

Offensive tackle Dalton Wagner echoed some of what Sanders said about Jackson.

“Like Rocket said, he doesn’t say much, but his actions speak a lot louder than his words do,” Wagner said. “I was very excited to see him have the game he had today. In the future, against all the future opponents we’re about to have in this next stretch, I think he’s going to have to really shine for us.”

Jackson was highly recruited out of Royse City (Texas) High School in the Class of 2021. He played in all 13 games as a true freshman last fall. He finished with five catches for 97 yards and one touchdown.

Jackson was a consensus four-star recruit in high school. As a senior, he caught 39 passes for 765 yards and 10 touchdowns. He played sparingly on defense in certain situations and picked off two passes.

He chose the Hogs over Alabama, Texas, Auburn, Baylor, LSU and several others.