By Otis Kirk
FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt junior KJ Jefferson is back to help Arkansas try to build on a 9-4, third-place finish in the SEC West.
Friday was the first practice for the Hogs and Jefferson obviously looked the part of an experienced quarterback who has had success in the SEC. Friday’s practice didn’t start until after 5 p.m., but was still very hot on the practice fields.
“We did some really good things starting off, but just being out in the heat, that’s a factor, and just being fatigued and stuff like that,” Jefferson said. “Just being able to come and just gain mental toughness and overcoming the heat and stuff like that, different variables of the game … just being able to overcome adversity that we were put through today. I feel like we came out and had an energetic day. We flew around, had fun and competed.”
This team went from three wins in 2020 to last season’s record. Now how do you take the next step and maybe get to 10 or more wins?
“I’d say for us, from a team and offensive standpoint, I’ll start with offense first,” Jefferson said. “Just being consistent. As an offense, a high-powered offense, a spread tempo offense, the main thing is you have to be consistent and stay ahead of the chains. You can’t take too many negatives in this league. Being able to be consistent and stay ahead of the chains. And then as a team, just doing the little details right, and the main thing is as we get tired and adversity starts to set in we look to one another and just encourage one another and bring each other up. That’s going to get us through the tough times.”
Malik Hornsby took the second-team quarterback snaps, but also got some reps at wide receiver. Jefferson likes what he sees from Hornsby.
“Malik is getting confident and comfortable each and every day,” Jefferson said. “In the meeting room he’s asking a lot of questions as well. He bounced around with the first team, and then he also took second-team quarterback reps as well. So he’s doing both right now. But the main thing is being able to keep him confident. Just keeping him confident in himself and as teammates we’re also confident in him going out there and just be himself. He doesn’t have to do too much, just go out there, have fun and be himself.”
A wide receiver who has vast college experience is Matt Landers who came over from Toledo. He previously played at Georgia. He’s a 6-foot-5 target who Jefferson is excited to have on the team.
“Matt Landers coming in, he’s played ball quite a while now, so he knows what it takes.” Jefferson said. “He.knows the work and the small details to get to that next level … Being able to have a skill like him, he can stretch the field vertically with his speed and his ability to track the ball down the field. He also runs crisp routes too. So he can create separation as well.”
Jefferson has made it a point to lose some weight from last season. He talked about where he’s at right now.
“I’m 240 right now,” Jefferson said. “That was the weight I wanted to come in at for fall camp, 240. So I’m hoping this camp I shed a couple more pounds before the first game. That’s my mindset going into it. So each and every day I’m attacking it and just living it up.”
Jefferson talked about how he feels with the lighter weight and was asked if he feels better than the first day last year?
“I do,” Jefferson said. “I do. I’m flying around a lot better. I’m a lot more confident in myself, just being able to get out and make plays with my legs. Just being able to knock some of the extra weight off and lean up a little bit and be able to come out there and put my team in the best position to win.”
Arkansas will return to the practice fields on Saturday.