FAYETTEVILLE — No. 25 Arkansas’ quarterback situation is a hot topic following the 49-26 loss to now No. 1 Alabama on Saturday in Razorback Stadium.
The Tide moved up today from No. 2 following Georgia surprisingly struggling to beat Missouri. Redshirt junior KJ Jefferson is firmly entrenched as the starter and key player for Arkansas. Who is behind him created a buzz when Sam Pittman sent Cade Fortin into the game instead of Malik Hornsby after Jefferson took a shot to the head when he was slammed to the ground by an Alabama defender.
“That decision has been made for a while,” Pittman said of inserting Fortin into the game. “So, he’s our number two quarterback, so, we put him in there.”
That decision may have been made for awhile, but Arkansas has listed Hornsby as the backup quarterback each Monday when the depth chart is released. Fortin was 4 of 10 passing for 35 yards on Saturday and had a nine-yard run. Hornsby hasn’t attempted a pass this season. He has rushed three times for 21 yards and caught two passes for eight yards.
Fortin and Hornsby were both four-star quarterbacks coming out of high school. Hornsby signed with the Hogs in the Class of 2020 out of Missouri City (Texas) Fort Bend Marshall High School. Prior to this season, Hornsby had played in eight games with no starts. He had completed 5 of 12 passes for 46 yards while also rushing 26 times for 135 yards and a touchdown. Much talk in the spring was about giving him extended duty at wide receiver, but the emergence of several wide receivers has seemingly halted the idea of Hornsby playing much wide receiver.
Fortin signed with North Carolina in the Class of 2018 out of Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett High School. He played at North Carolina in 2018-19 before transferring to South Florida for the 2020-21 seasons. In 11 games at the two schools with two starts, Fortin completed 61 of 121 passes for 610 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He had rushed 27 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Right tackle Dalton Wagner talked about Fortin’s performance on Saturday.
“Yeah, he’s a very confident player,” Wagner said. “It’s fun to have him back there. There’s times in practice where coach Pitt will just throw him in a two-minute situation or throw him in third downs or something like that with the ones just to give a give KJ a break and see what Cade can do. And Cade’s excelled every time his number’s been called, and he excelled today.”
Rocket Sanders also chimed in on Fortin’s play.
“I feel like he played with a lot of confidence,” Sanders said. “And I feel like he always be ready. In practice, I feel like he’s a good quarterback, just reading it. And I feel like he did good and he was prepared to come out there.”
Arkansas also has two other quarterbacks on campus. Ole Miss transfer Kade Renfro is still healing from an injury that required surgery to his knee. Former Jonesboro standout Rykar Acebo is a true freshman. Both are walk-ons as is Fortin.
Arkansas has a commitment in the Class of 2023 from Kennesaw (Ga.) North Cobb four-star Malachi Singleton, 6-1, 225. Singleton had surgery on his foot earlier this fall and has yet to be able to return to action. He was at Saturday’s game against the Tide.
Singleton is a true dual-threat quarterback like Jefferson. Thus far in his career at North Cobb, Singleton has completed 317 of 461 passes for 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has rushed 380 times for 2,325 yards and 53 touchdowns.
Arkansas did lose one quarterback to the transfer portal in the offseason when freshman Lucas Coley opted to move on to Houston.
This season, Jefferson has completed 80 of 121 passes for 1,006 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception. He is second on the team in rushing with 81 carries for 312 yards and four touchdowns. Pittman didn’t have much to say about the extent of Jefferson’s head injury on Saturday immediately following the game.
“He hit his head,” Pittman said. “I don’t know. I don’t know where he’s at to be honest with you. Obviously, we didn’t bring him back in. I don’t know any more than that.”
The Hogs will take on No. 23 Mississippi State on Saturday at 11 a.m. in Starkville. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.