FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas is 12-11 under Sam Pittman and appears to be moving in the right direction.
The record is even more impressive when one considers the first season was just an all-SEC schedule which the Hogs went 3-7. Not impressive? The program had one SEC win the three previous seasons combined. The Razorbacks went 9-4 in 2021 and won four trophy games which equaled the total number of wins, none in the SEC, by the previous head coach in two seasons.
Here’s a couple of random thoughts on the 2022 football team.
KJ Jefferson’s Return is Huge
KJ Jefferson started all 13 games in 2021 and now is back as an established quarterback in the SEC. Prior to last season, Jefferson had two career starts. In 2021, Jefferson completed 198 of 294 passes for 2,676 yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions. He topped the team in rushing with 146 carries for 664 yards and six touchdowns. Jefferson was named the Outstanding Player at the Outback Bowl. Gone is Treylon Burks to the NFL, but Arkansas added former Sooner Jadon Haselwood to help boost the wide receivers. Warren Thompson returns after catching 19 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns. Only Alabama is better set at quarterback than the Hogs. Kendal Briles, the offensive coordinator, credited Jefferson for being one of the reasons he wanted to stay at Arkansas.
“Having KJ back, it would have been really, really hard to look at KJ and tell him I wasn’t going to be here, just because I love the kid and respect him so much and want him to be able to achieve his goals,” Briles said. “Just having that guy back with experience. It’s actually the first time in my career as a coordinator having a returning starting quarterback, so it’s just so nice to be able to have that. Speaks the same language, knows what to expect.”
Hogs Need Stability on Defensive Line
Arkansas hasn’t returned the same defensive line coach since 2018. That was when John Scott Jr. returned after also coaching in 2017. Deke Adams is the third D-line coach for Sam Pittman. The first year he Derrick LeBlanc and then Jermial Ashley in 2021. In Chad Morris’ final season he split the duties between Steve Caldwell and Kenny Ingram. Pittman chose not to retain either of them. This has forced the defensive linemen to have to adjust to a new coach with different ideas and philosophy each season. The Razorbacks need a better pass rush and no doubt the constant changing of coaches has contributed to that at least to some degree. So far all the feedback on Adams has been good. He was considered among the elite defensive line coaches when at South Carolina. If he can help solidify the defensive line that will make this program better on defense. Barry Odom, Arkansas’ defensive coordinator, had praise for Adams this spring.
“Then with Deke I knew about Deke because of name recognition what he had done in our conference up until he was out of it last year,” Odom said. “But I knew about Deke from afar a little bit more because I had never been around him. He was at Ole Miss, Mississippi State and he had been at South Carolina. I think he and Coach Pittman knew of each other a little bit more than I knew Deke. We’ve got a guy in program in personnel department that had worked with Deke recently. He just mentioned, and didn’t push him at all. ‘Hey, why don’t you check this guy out.’ Made a lot of calls and spent a lot of hours on the phone with a number of different people and thought Deke was the right guy at the right time for our program.”