FAYETTEVILLE — Yes it’s too early to be talking about spring football at the University of Arkansas, but considering many of the other topics circulating around maybe this isn’t that bad after all.
First, let’s assume there will be spring football this year. Considering that wasn’t the case last year and COVID is much worse now than it was then not sure how safe this assumption is. But, then again, until it’s canceled let’s assume there will be spring football for Sam Pittman and his staff.
Of course quarterback is where it all starts for observers. While there was no spring last year it was a given Feleipe Franks would be the team’s starting quarterback as soon as he said yes to the offer from Arkansas.
This year, it appears there will be a true battle for the position. Redshirt sophomore KJ Jefferson, redshirt freshman Malik Hornsby and true freshman Lucas Coley will be in the mix as will redshirt junior John Stephen Jones. True freshman Landon Rogers doesn’t arrive until late May or early June. Jefferson has the most experience of the group.
Jefferson played in five games this season. He completed 20 of 41 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, he carried 28 times for 67 yards and a pair of touchdowns. When Franks was injured, Jefferson started and went the distance against Missouri. The Hogs lost 50-48, but not because of Jefferson. He completed 18 of 33 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed 13 times for 32 yards and a touchdown.
Hornsby played in one game and had two carries for a negative-one yard. Jones didn’t see any action this past season. Coley will be at Arkansas on Sunday.
Prior to this season, Jefferson played in three games with one start (at LSU in 2019). He completed 14 of 31 passes for 197 yards and an interception. He rushed three times for 30 yards with two touchdowns.
Jones has played in six games at Arkansas with one start (against Western Kentucky). He has completed 15 of 34 passes for 119 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He rushed 14 times for 37 yards.
The winner of the job will have big shoes to fill. In Franks’ one season at Arkansas, he completed 163 of 238 passes for 2,107 yards, 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also rushed 105 times for 204 yards and a touchdown. His rushing total was third on the team behind only Trelon Smith and Rakeem Boyd.
Franks helped lead the team to SEC wins over Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Tennessee. Arkansas lost very close games against LSU and Auburn in addition to the Missouri game with Jefferson at the helm.
Coley helped lead San Antonio (Texas) Cornerstone Christian to a 10-1 mark in 2020. He threw for 1,100-plus yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception with almost 500 rushing yards and 11 scores.
Rogers led Little Rock Parkview to a 9-2 mark as a senior. He completed 92 of 150 passes for 1,247 yards and six touchdowns while also rushing 150 times for 1,148 yards and 22 touchdowns.
KJ Jefferson, 6-3, 236, Redshirt Sophomore, Sardis (Miss.) North Panola
Malik Hornsby, 6-2, 183, Redshirt Freshman, Missouri City (Texas) Fort Bend Marshall
John Stephen Jones, 5-11, 202, Redshirt Junior, Dallas (Texas) Highland Park
Lucas Coley, 6-2, 207, Freshman, San Antonio (Texas) Cornerstone Christian
Landon Rogers, 6-4, 215, Freshman, Little Rock Parkview