FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas held its first preseason scrimmage preparing for the Sept. 4 season opener against Rice.
KJ Jefferson is preparing for his third start as the Razorbacks quarterback. The scrimmage was closed on Saturday and Jefferson was asked to evaluate how he did.
“I feel like today my play was pretty average,” Jefferson said. “I left a couple of throws out there that I didn’t make today. I let my offense down on a couple of drives. Just decision making basically. Driving the ball down the field and making a poor decision on a read or something like that.”
Sam Pittman also talked about how Jefferson performed in the scrimmage.
“I would say he probably was about average,” Pittman said. “He’s had better days. He’s had worse days. When your quarterback is not live, it’s good because you’re not going to have the opportunity to sack him physically. However, he’s so big and such a good runner, it’s just hard in scrimmages for him a lot of times to get into a routine because he’s so powerful as a runner. I don’t think he was inaccurate or anything of that nature. We had a long drive or two on offense. One of them ended in a touchdown. Two of them ended in field goals.”
Jefferson wasn’t pleased with how the offense executed later in the scrimmage.
“The second half of the scrimmage we got a little loose with the ball as far as ball handling, ball security,” Jefferson said. “We’ll come back and watch the film. Practice with more focus on taking care of the ball and ball security on offense.”
Jefferson had a 50-yard touchdown throw to wide receiver Kendall Catalon, who is having a very good preseason camp.
“He has had an awesome camp,” Jefferson said. “As far as teaching the younger guys and making plays downfield. Just being quarterback friendly. When we breakdown and scramble out he’s always there to make sure we get the ball out of our hands.”
The Rice game will be Jefferson’s third start in his career at Arkansas. Since the first two were on the road, LSU and Missouri, Jefferson gave his thoughts on getting a start at home.
“That means a lot just coming back to the Razorback family starting off the season with a great victory hopefully,” Jefferson said. “Just the atmosphere and bringing the culture back like it used to be.”
Does starting the game at home apply any more pressure to you?
“No sir,” Jefferson said. “I know the guys in the locker room each and every day will help me prepare and instill confidence with me. I know I’ll be good.”
Jefferson admitted the scrimmages are tough since running is a big part of his game and the quarterbacks aren’t allowed to be hit in practice.
“That’s the hardest part as far as a quarterback,” Jefferson said. “I speak for all the quarterbacks when I say that. All of us can make plays with our legs and scrimmages are being limited making plays with our legs. It’s kind of hard, but you have to adjust to it. I treat it as adversity knowing we can’t run as much. Just focus on the part where we’re making great decisions with the ball getting the ball down the field in playmaker’s hands.”
Jefferson had a familiar name when asked if there’s any one player on Arkansas’ defense that gives him the most trouble?
“Grant Morgan,” Jefferson said. “Me and him goes at it each and every day. He’s a great player on defense. I like what he does with the defense. Just a great battle. Just great competition. We’re both competing and having fun.”
Jefferson also talked about the run game that was without true freshman AJ Green, who was held out, but is expected to return this week. Trelon Smith, Josh Oglesby and Rocket Sanders drew praise from Pittman.
“I feel like the running back position was very productive today,” Jefferson said. “When plays broke down in the backfield they still founds ways to make their own hole. I feel like Rocket had a great day today. He had a 2-yard touchdown.
“Dominique (Johnson) had a very productive day at both tight end and running back. Trelon Smith also had a great day.”
Pittman added some more about the running backs behind Smith.
“I thought Oglesby ran the ball well,” Pittman said. “I thought 5 (Sanders) ran the ball well. AJ Green is a little dinged up, so we elected to hold him today. I wish we could have played him because this would have been a great opportunity for him. I thought Rocket ran hard. Dominique, we played him at a little bit of running back as well today along with the tight end spot. I thought he ran the ball hard and well. I thought our defense was very physical in their tackling. They missed some later on as the scrimmage went on, but I think we’ve found something there in 23 (Oglesby) and 5. 22 (Smith) is our starter, I mean, that’s how it is. But, I think those two had a good day. I don’t know the statistics of it.”
Arkansas will not practice again until Monday.