FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt freshman Bryce Stephens has made a big impact on Arkansas this season at punt returner, but on Saturday it was wide receiver where he stood out.
No play this season has been any bigger than Stephens’ 82-yard punt return for a touchdown with 9:16 remaining in the game against Missouri State. That touchdown gave Arkansas its first lead of the night at 31-27. They went on to take a 38-27 win. On Saturday, Stephens caught two passes for 59 yards including a 54-yard touchdown catch from Malik Hornsby.
“It was a good moment, but it was something I’ve been working on, prepared for, working all year, ready for the moment,” Stephens said.
Stephens hopes for the opportunity to showcase his wide receiver skills again on Saturday at BYU.
“Course,” Stephens said. “We’ll see this week.”
Sam Pittman praised Stephens on Monday for his play against the Bulldogs.
“Yeah, I was really proud of Bryce,” Pittman said. “I mean it was a hard catch, a tough catch and … really good throw. Not an easy catch, let’s say that. And he did a really good job with that. We’ve got to get going a little bit more. We didn’t play particularly well at wide receiver in some positions that we’ve got to figure out who possibly our third receiver is and things of that nature. And that could be a Bryce or even Jaedon Wilson, somebody like that. I think we’ve got the talent. We’ve just got to give more effort and play harder.”
Stephens described the catch that was perfectly thrown by Hornsby.
“Yeah, it was tough, but me and Malik worked all offseason and we have a connection, so he just gave me a chance and I made a play,” Stephens said.
Stephens talked about what it meant to make an impact at wide receiver as well as punt returner.
“I mean, it meant… I really knew I could go do it going in, but it’s just like building more confidence in quarterbacks and everyone in me,” Stephens said.
Stephens is known for his outstanding speed, but talked about his other strengths.
“Just knowing what I’m supposed to be doing when I’m on the field and working, pushing everybody else to work harder, too,” Stephens said.
Stephens also praised teammate Jadon Haselwood who had three catches for 113 yards in Saturday’s game.
“He’s a great player, and he’s a leader,” Stephens said. “He speaks up a lot and continues to work no matter what, no matter what. He’s feeling like he’s going to continue to work, so he’s a good guy, too.”
Two of the former wide receivers are now on defense at cornerback. Both Sam Mbake and Quincey McAdoo are true freshmen who have moved to the secondary for the remainder of this season.
“I mean, they’re excited to help the team in any way possible, so they’re going to go do what they have to do to make the team better,” Stephens said. “Quincey is a good athlete. He can play both sides. He did it in high school, and he can do it here.”
Stephens and the Hogs face a very good 4-2 BYU team on Saturday. The Hogs will enter with a three-game losing skid. That doesn’t concern Stephens.
“We’re going to continue to work and come out this weekend and get a dub,” Stephens said.
He also praised the demeanor of Pittman during this skid.
“He continues to push us and he’s a great coach,” Stephens said. “He’s going to do what he has to do to help us win.”
Stephens described the defense he and his teammates will face on Saturday.
“They’re very disciplined and have a lot of older guys and stuff, so we need to make sure we key in, lock in on what we’re supposed to be doing,” Stephens said. “They’re just like an SEC team. It’s high altitude, so we’re going to continue to hydrate and get ready for the game.”
Stephens and the Hogs will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in Provo, Utah, with the game televised on ESPN.