With the start of Arkansas’ spring football practice roughly a month away, Sam Pittman’s biggest question is with the most critical position on the field.
He’s got to find a quarterback that can win.
Nobody on the roster right now have ever won a college game or even completed half of their passes.
While Pittman and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles got lucky when Feleipe Franks chose to play his final year in Fayetteville, only KJ Jefferson got any significant playing time behind him.
The only passes thrown in games were by Jefferson (18-of-34) and Treylon Burks, who completed the same number of his four attempts as I did from the press box (his main job is catching passes, not throwing them).
True freshman Malik Hornsby got some snaps but it was essentially to try and out-run everybody on a few goal-line plays that didn’t really work.
As we are into February there’s little chance a graduate transfer could come in and make much of a difference. Franks at least had player-led workouts when covid shut down last year’s spring practice and he ended up leading some of those.
We have no idea if anyone has stepped into a leadership role like that, which is going to be required if this team is going to make much improvement.
The only thing we know for certain is nobody knows for sure and that probably includes the coaches.
Jefferson was the surprise starter at Missouri the first weekend in December and he had moments where he played fairly well, but he wasn’t consistent, completing just over half of his throws in that game.
For a point of comparison, Franks completed 68.5 percent of his throws for the entire season without any spring practice and just having some backyard passing drills with his new teammates.
It’s probably Jefferson’s job to lose and there’s more questions than answers with him right now. That’s simply because he has significant playing time in one game in 2019 (against LSU) and the Missouri game last year.
Pittman’s problem is it’s only the most important position on the field.
Like the NFL, the college game has changed to the point where the number of wins is in direct proportion to the play of the quarterback. Just managing the game isn’t enough anymore.
Both of the quarterbacks in the SEC title game this past season were finalists for the Heisman Trophy. Yes, they had better players around them than Jefferson will have this year, but the quarterback can’t play down to the level of those around him.
The coaches will start finding out in a few weeks more about Jefferson. He’s got the physical ability but the coaches have got to figure out if he can be more consistent.
And be THE leader of the offense. Shoot, we don’t even know if he can handle a media interview because we haven’t talked to him.
Last year the defense was the biggest question mark. Franks settled the offense almost immediately after he arrived on campus.
Now it’s KJ’s turn.
How he handles it will likely determine the fate of this team.