In year 1, Sam Pittman coached the Razorbacks to an ugly 3-7 record but there were signs of life in Fayetteville. They played LSU close and lost a heart breaker to Missouri on a last-second field goal. Year 2 could be a coming out party if some of their veterans can take a step forward and the talented freshman class can contribute.

Quarterbacks

K.J. Jefferson – rSo

Leading the first team out of spring is Jefferson, a third year player with a career 47% completion percentage on 72 attempts. That’s… bad. He has some dual-threat upside and while he’ll never have a big-time arm, if he can tighten it up some there is potential here. His motion is fairly quick and he can throw it far but clearly needs to work on his accuracy.

In this game, Jefferson was 6-9 for 152 yards for a whopping 16.2 yards per attempt. He delivered 2 touchdowns to Treylon Burks and Mike Woods and ran for a long scamper (clip below). He’s not extremely dynamic as a runner but can get the job done. Jefferson is the clear starter by this performance and I am somewhat encouraged by the throws I saw.

Malik Hornsby – rFr

Hornsby looks more athletic than Jefferson with a leaner physique and more quick twitch. However, his throwing motion is wonky and he requires a long release that appears difficult to replicate. He finished 8-13 for 97 yards (7.4 y/att) and a touchdown.

The ceiling for Hornsby seems capped because, like Jefferson, neither one is likely to be a professional-level passer. He is currently behind a quarterback who will likely play out the next two years at least so if he can’t climb the depth chart I think Hornsby will finish his career somewhere else.

Lucas Coley – rFr

The true freshman came in late for some mop up duty. He was 3-5 for 30 yards and will learn under the top 2 quarterbacks with a probable redshirt in his future.

Running Backs

Trelon Smith – rJr

Two years removed from transferring out of Arizona State, Smith finds himself at the top of the Razorback depth chart. At 5’9″, 190 pounds he does not seem to fit the mold of a feature back and coach Sam Pittman has repeatedly said he wants a “big back” role in his offense.

For his part, Smith has played well when given the opportunity and should have a large contribution in this offense in 2021. He can contribute as a receiving back, hauling in 22 receptions in only 10 games last season. He’s a nice complementary back but even in the college side of a Campus to Canton league I wouldn’t expect starter production.

Raheim Sanders – Fr

Any time a freshman is called “Rocket” by the head coach, you really need to pay attention. A true bowling ball at 6’2″, 220 pounds, Sanders played both receiver and running back in high school and recently converted to a full-time member of the backfield. He may take some time to learn the position, but the staff has routinely mentioned his name as a player they are excited to play the “big back” role.

In his first game action for Arkansas, he carried 5 times for only 17 yards. More importantly, he was running with the starting crew and taking handoffs from Jefferson. Given the opportunity before Sanders, his size, and his ability as a receiver, there is a lot to be excited about as we head into the fall.

Dominique Johnson – rFr

Another candidate to be Sam Pittman’s coveted “big back” is Johnson, a massive 6’1″, 240 bulldozer who redshirted last year. He looked nimble for his size, making a few nifty moves to break off chunk gains. One run, in particular, saw him use creative vision and shiftiness to weave through the defense (clip below).

Johnson finished his day with 5 carries totaling 61 yards. He doesn’t look like he’s got breakaway speed but can give you positive yards regularly, similar to Rhamondre Stevenson from Oklahoma. Playing with the second team, he’s got some work to do, but Johnson is one to keep an eye on once fall practices open.

Javion Hunt – Fr

One of three freshman running backs, Hunt did not see much action in this one. He wasn’t listed on the two-deep depth chart heading into the game either making a redshirt look likely.

A.J. Green – Fr

Because he is enrolling in the summer semester, Green did not play in the Red-White game. I included him because I caught the commentators discussing the explosive athlete out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. With a verified 10.4 100 meter time, Green has speed that no one on the team can compete with.

The announcers said that the staff is extremely excited about Green and think he may be the best running back on the team. He was my second favorite recruit with an athlete designation, so I agree that he’s likely to hit the ground running come fall.

Wide Receivers

Treylon Burks – Jr

One of 2020’s biggest risers, Burks continued his upward trajectory on Saturday, catching 2 balls for 67 yards and a score. Both receptions were deep connections with Jefferson and he got open with ease against the Razorbacks’ soft defense.

The monster receiver is ranked as high as the 2022 WR1 for some devy players, so he is no longer going to sneak up on anyone. However, Arkansas will do their best to move him around and get him in favorable situations. He was in the backfield and going in motion frequently, just like he did last year.

Mike Woods – Sr

Once thought to be on a promising path after finishing third on the team in receiving as a freshman, Woods now enters his senior season as a complement to Burks. He played with the starting side and caught a long touchdown from Jefferson (clip below).

His 2-40-1 receiving line was accumulated in the first half of the scrimmage as the starters cooled off as the game wore on. I wouldn’t be very excited about Woods on the college side, given that it’s unlikely Jefferson will support two high-end fantasy receivers. However, there could be some pro buzz on his horizon, should he make the senior bowl. In deep devy leagues, Woods is not a bad stash.

Trey Knox – Jr

Many liked Knox better than Burks when they stepped on campus as freshmen in 2019. Now we know that Burks is the freakish do-it-all alpha, whereas Knox has failed to distinguish himself. In his first year he looked promising, but injuries held him out of 4 games in 2020 and he only managed to tally 7 catches for 70 yards.

The 6’5″ 207 pound outside receiver walked away from the Red-White game with a 2-46 line. He was running with Jefferson’s squad and will battle Woods for targets behind Burks.

John David White – rSo

Likely to continue to be a reserve receiver, White was a top target for Hornsby’s second-team offense. He finished with a 3-60-1 line, but I don’t see him becoming relevant for fantasy or devy purposes.

Ketron Jackson Jr – Fr

It has been a quiet start for the 4-star receiver out of Texas. Jackson has not made many blurbs out of spring camp and did not appear to be on the field much, if at all, in this game. He was a highly rated recruit but may need more time to get used to the college game. It is disappointing to hear so little from the 6’2″ 205 pound freshman since he did get a chance to show out during spring.

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