FAYETTEVVILLE — Redshirt sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson had a very good season and earned a lot of respect from others along the way.
Jefferson, in his first year as a starter, completed 184 of 275 passes for 2,578 yards, 21 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also rushed 126 times for 554 yards and five touchdowns. Treylon Burks was his favorite target and praised Jefferson.
“Me and KJ, it basically feels like we grew up with each other,” Burks said. “We came in with each other. We room with each other. Even the night before in the hotel we’re in the same room. That bond with me and him is just unbreakable. That’s my brother. We’ll do anything for each other.”
Senior linebacker Hayden Henry goes against Jefferson and the offense in practice as well as watching him work magic during games.
“He’s tough as nails,” Henry said. “I mean, he’s always been tough as nails and got banged up against Texas A&M and played through pain. And you know, I mean when he runs the way that he does, he’s gonna get beat up. I mean he likes to run people over and I love that about him actually. it gets me fired up but I mean you guys tough as nails he’s an ultra competitor, loves to win, loves to compete.”
Another senior linebacker Bumper Pool echoed the praise for Jefferson.
“That was perfectly said,” Pool said. “You know he’s made of steel at some times with his head. I mean, he just puts it down and says I don’t I don’t care who you are, how big you are. I’m going through you. So you know I’m glad he’s you know, in a black jersey at our practices.”
Sam Pittman likes the leadership his quarterback has provided as well as the obvious outstanding play on the field.
“I think you’re looking at a defensive scheme that, you’ve got to break it,” Pittman said. “If you don’t, you’re going to have more first-half results. Where earlier in the first half, he was sacked on a hot protection. In other words, they’re bringing more than we can protect. Then in the third quarter, he hits Burks for a touchdown with a guy coming basically up the A gap. So, he has matured. He throws the long ball very, very well. Obviously he’s excited when 16 is out there one-on-one. He throws it up to him and he goes and gets it. I just really have been pleased with the progression he’s had, not only as a football player but as a team leader. He really has taken a huge role in that. I’m very proud of him.”
Jefferson credited some of his teammates for showing him what being a leader was and how to go about it. Being a leader is something that Jefferson is comfortable being now.
“Looking up to those guys like Bumper, Grant (Morgan), Hayden,” Jefferson said. “The veterans in the group. Looking up to those guys, they’ve instilled knowledge in me, watching how they go about their day and express their feelings on the field and off the field. At practice also. So taking a little bit from each of them and piecing it together and adding it to my collection, being able to come out of my shell and be confident in talking to the team.”
Against Missouri on Friday, Jefferson completed 15 of 19 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown while also rushing six times for 58 yards. Pittman loved what he saw from his redshirt sophomore quarterback. His play was also noticed by Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz.
“Yeah, I mean I think KJ did a nice job,” Drinkwitz said. “He was very accurate, you know, created a great explosive play with the deep ball to Burks and then scrambled on a third down. He got an explosive play using his feet. He’s a he’s a big time quarterback and he did what he needed to do for his football team tonight.”
Missouri linebacker Blaze Alldredge also was impressed with the way Jefferson operated against the Tigers on Friday.
“Yeah, well you know he did what he does,” Alldredge said “He’s a big quarterback that can run the ball and he’s also got a big arm to throw it over the top. You saw him with a couple big runs
“You know he’s going to do that you got to try and limit it as much as he can, but like our coaches say, these guys are on scholarship too, you know, they’re going to make some plays now and then, especially a player of his caliber. So he did a great job doing what he’s known for. He had some good quarterback runs and when he needed to he was able to take the top off with some strong throws.”
Arkansas (8-4, 4-4) will now await word on where they will go bowling. Sources indicate the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., on New Year’s Eve is one of the bowls in play.