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Andy Hodges

It’s KJ’s turn … at least as spring practice gets under way

Jefferson will start spring as top quarterback with Pittman giving him a vote of confidence Monday but it’s up to KJ how long he stays there.

Whether KJ Jefferson is a rip-roaring success at quarterback for Arkansas is something we’ll know about Halloween and now it’s up to him.

But what a lot of people didn’t seem to grasp from Sam Pittman’s press conference Monday is that it’s not necessarily a tenured position.

“Right now KJ’s our starter and we certainly anticipate a really nice battle,” Pittman said.

He doesn’t have to say it’s “not a lifetime appointment” like the previous coach was fond of saying on numerous occasions. That goes without having to say it.

But it was good for Jefferson to see that. It’s hard to make a play when you’re thinking more about not screwing one up.

Jefferson is the only quarterback coming back that started a game last year. The hope is he’s actually more suited to offensive coordinator Kendal Briles’ ideal offense than Feleipe Franks was last year.

“Feleipe was what I’m going to call a surprising runner,” Pittman said. “He ran better than what I thought he would.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean anybody expects them to be a power runner. There’s no evidence any of them could hold up to be doing that.

Pittman stomped all over the place trying to explain that at one point.

“These other guys are certainly capable of being a running back as well,” he said. “So they all can throw or they wouldn’t be here. But I think it will be more of Kendal putting in everything in his offense that he can versus some of the the things he may not have had because of Feleipe and our depth chart.”

That was Pittspeak for saying they want the quarterback to be able to run the ball when they want to, not just have quick enough feet to run downfield after all the pass rushers ran past him in the pocket.

With Pittspeak, you’re always kinda guessing a little but that’s an educated guess of what he was trying to say.

Five of the six quarterbacks on the roster are listed at 6-foot-2 or better (John Stephen Jones the exception). They have the size to be able to run.

You can bet that doesn’t mean they expect the quarterback to be running 25 times a game or trying to run over people, but maybe some option plays or designed runs. Bless his heart, Feleipe looked like a stork trying to run down a beach at times.

These days in the SEC you’ll get a quarterback hurt badly trying to rely on him as the primary runner.

To win in the SEC your quarterback better be able to make great (and quick) decisions throwing the ball. If he can run well enough to pick up an occasional third-and-4 at midfield that makes your offense better.

Don’t compare today to 10 years ago. The players are bigger, faster and more athletic than they were just a decade ago.

You have to pass to win games and you need to run when you need to if you want to compete for championships and that is Pittman’s ultimate goal.

“They all can throw or they wouldn’t be here,” Pittman said.

The biggest thing at quarterback, though, is leadership. Pittman likes what he’s seen from Jefferson so far.

“His work ethic has been leadership in itself, and he’s becoming more vocal,” he said. “He’s vocal as he needs to be to be honest with you, and I’ll tell you Feleipe wasn’t a very vocal guy, either. But his work ethic was and that’s the same way with KJ.”

The last intangible is confidence. Pittman made it publicly clear Monday that Jefferson is No. 1 guy starting spring practice.

What he didn’t have to say is how long it stays that way is up to Jefferson.

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