FAYETTEVILLE — Justin Stepp was the lone holdover from Chad Morris’ staff to the one with Sam Pittman.
Stepp talked about how he balances not looking back at the past and instead to the future.
“Man, I’m excited for new,” Stepp said. “I think our kids are excited for new. Just something different. I think we just needed something different so I know where we’ve been, but I also know where this place can go. Hearing what Coach Pittman said about this place when he was here and wasn’t too long ago they were winning a lot of football games here. I know we can recruit here.”
When Stepp was on the staff at SMU they played against Kendal Briles.
“Man, they were loaded that year we played them,” Stepp said. “It was bombs every play. Obvioiusly he’s got an unbelievable reputation for offense especially my position. It helped. I know that last name helps me in recruiting. Makes my job a little bit easier when I go out to recruit to the offense. I’m excited about that.”
Stepp and the Razorbacks return Treylon Burks, Mike Woods and Trey Knox. The three combined to catch 90 passes for 1,283 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019. That is a lot of talent returning for Stepp at wide receiver.
“They are all three even better kids,” Stepp said. “They work extremely hard. I think both Trey and Treylon hit that freshman wall a little bit last year. I think they’re both trying to get back and get more physical, bigger, stronger and faster.
“Mike is the leader in that group. He’s had to kinda take that over when Deon (Stewart) got hurt last year.”
Knox, Burks and Woods all have hosted various recruits and usually with great success.
“You look at all three of those guys,” Stepp said. “Mike Woods was committed to us and myself when we were at SMU. I think it just goes back to relationships. You build relationships with those kids. I told Mike if anything ever happens you will be the first guy I call. We get this job and he was the first guy I called and he committed sight unseen.
“Treylon and Trey, goodness gracious, they could have gone anywhere, but they believed in this program, believed in what this place can be and believed in me and the old staff. I believe they believe in Coach Pittman. It’s just a love of the university. Sooner or later you can’t fake that. That’s what we tell recruits all the time these players will be the best, you want to get the truth out of what this place is like ask the players.”
Burks was the player host for Missouri City (Texas) Fort Bend Marshall four-star quarterback Malik Hornsby. Hornsby was impressed with Burks and very complimentary of him. Hornsby also likes the offense that Kendal Briles will run at Arkansas and the receivers he will have to throw to.
“Malik was one of the first guys Coach Briles brought up when he got this job,” Stepp said. “I think their relationship goes back to Coach Briles being from Houston and playing his last year in Houston. Obviously that helped. Sooner or later you can’t fake family and I think that’s what he and Coach Briles are and I think that had a lot to do with him coming here.”
But the Hogs have other wide receivers back too. Shamar Nash was highly recruited, but redshirted as a true freshman last fall. Stepp talked about Nash and where he’s at now.
“Shamar was here last year and kinda struggled picking up the offense and being consistent on a daily basis last year,” Stepp said. “It’s probably not exactly what he wanted to do, but I think redshirting last year was probably the best thing for that kid. He got a year under his belt, got faster and definitely got stronger. I looked at him the other day and he’s just gotten so much bigger. I think that has been good for him.”
In the most recent recruiting class, Stepp and the Hogs added Darin Turner who is also from Memphis. He is enrolled at Arkansas now and able to go through spring drills.
“Darin provides a lot of size,” Stepp said. “Adds a lot of length, big kid. Played a bunch of different positions. He has played defense and the physicality of that position is something of interest to us. I think he’s gonna be a surprise this spring.”
Koilan Jackson played in 11 games in 2019 catching three passes for 38 yards and a touchdown. Stepp talked about what he wants to see from Jackson this season.
“He came on towards the end of the year last year,” Stepp said. “But again it’s the same thing we talk about everybody it’s consistency every single day. We tell them all the time you don’t earn playing time on game day. It’s through the week and your preparation and how you prepare and how you practice. I think he got better at practicing consistently throughout the year. I’m looking forward to him having another full offseason where he’s healthy and a 100-percent and see what happens.”
Stepp also welcomes back De’Vion Warren, Tyson Morris and Stewart back. Warren played in nine games catching four passes for 19 yards. Warren returned 16 kickoffs for 326 yards. Warren also rushed five times for 51 yards. Morris had 13 receptions for 155 yards and one touchdown.
“De’Vion had some injuries towards the end of the year last year that kinda hampered him a little bit,” Stepp said. “It’s crazy that kids a senior. I’ve got him, Deon and Tyson Morris. Tyson Morris that dude played about three different positions last year. In the (Texas) A&M game he played all three positions and, bless his heart, he had no idea what he was doing half the time, but he played hard. I’m excited to have those guys back and some young guys to see what they’ve got.”
John David White redshirted last year as well as a preferred walk-on. White did play in two games making a pair of receptions for 27 yards.
TQ Jackson is still enrolled at the UA. Stepp talked about Jackson who caught one pass for two yards in 2019.
“TQ is just trying to finish up school and going through a lot,” Stepp said. “I’ve just been communicating with him and trying to help him off the field. Has nothing to do with football. Just trying to help him and make sure he’s in a good place.”
(Editor’s Note: This is Part 8 of a 10-part series allowing fans to get to know more about the assistant coaches at Arkansas.)
Click here for Part 1 (Jon Cooper, TE)
Click here for Part 2 (Sam Carter, CB)
Click here for Part 3 (Jimmy Smith, RB)
Click here for Part 4 (Rion Rhoades, LB)
Click here for Part 5 (Kendal Briles, QB-OC)
Click here for Part 6 (Brad Davis, OL)
Click here for Part 7 (Barry Odom, DC)