FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman still is uncertain on the status of redshirt junior quarterback KJ Jefferson heading into Wednesday’s practice.
Arkansas will hit the practice fields a little later this afternoon to hold closed drills preparing for Mississippi State. Jefferson suffered a head injury late in the Alabama game and his status has been much talked about this week.
“I don’t right now,” Pittman said. “They were supposed to talk with him this afternoon. It wouldn’t affect, to be honest with you, whether he went to meetings and things of that nature. As soon as we get through here, I’ll visit with Dave (Polanski) and see. I do think he’ll be at practice.
“To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t know what all he’ll be able to do. And I think that’ll just kind of be off of individual and see how he feels, what he can do.”
Pittman said that Jefferson will be in Starkville on Saturday, but not certain if he will play.
“We’ve kind of got a rule, you’ve got to practice, you’ve got to do something on Wednesday,” Pittman said. “Well, not kind of. We do have a rule that you have to participate in practice on Wednesday in order to travel to the game.
“So that will check that box. So I can tell you he’s going to be on the plane, you know. Assuming that I don’t get from here that he’s not going to practice at all. But if he practices at all, he’ll be on the plane. I know you guys may or may not think I’m being real vague on this, but I’m just telling you the truth. I have no idea, because I don’t know how well he’s going to react to physical movement. If he reacts really well, then we’ll have a decision to make on what we’re going to do moving forward depending on how much he practices today.”
With Jefferson being a franchise player on offense, would Pittman hold Jefferson to the rule of having to practice Wednesday?
“To be honest with you, it just has everything to do with whether he’s going to travel or not,” Pittman said. “They have to do something. Like we wanted to travel Stew (Jashaud Stewart), or somebody, I think it was maybe Stewart a couple weeks back, I can’t remember who it was.
“I said, ‘Hey, get him out there to practice, get him in individual and let’s see where he can go.’ He went through individual not great, but enough to where you’re buying Thursday, Friday, Saturday, to see if he’s able to travel. That’s kind of what I’m thinking with KJ. Obviously I think everybody on this call wants him healthy and ready to go and all those things, including myself, so we’ll probably just kind of play it by ear over the next three days. If he practices a whole bunch today, now that would definitely change a lot of things.”
While Jefferson hasn’t practiced to this point he’s been able to go to meetings and do the stuff off the field.
“Yeah, he’s been in all meetings,” Pittman said. “He’s been to both practices. We’re just waiting to see if he’s able to practice. In all honesty, I don’t have that answer right now as we’re sitting here. If he’s able to practice, then we’ll certainly practice him. If he’s not, then we won’t. That’s certainly not my call. But whatever that is, then we’ll look at them and go from there.”
If, by chance, Jefferson can’t play then he will be replaced by USF transfer Cade Fortin and redshirt sophomore Malik Hornsby. Is there a scenario where Pittman could see both of them playing against the Bulldogs?
“Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a real possibility that we would do that,” Pittman said. “Certainly we would go with a hot hand, I would say. But in our game plan, there’s certainly opportunities for both of those kids to play if KJ can’t.”
Fortin and Hornsby, like Jefferson, are former four-star quarterbacks in recruiting. Prior to Arkansas, Fortin spent two years at both North Carolina and South Florida. He played in 11 games with two starts in four years. He completed 61 of 121 passes for 610 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions. He rushed 27 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Pittman talked about why he chose to bring Fortin in for this season.
“I think he was just looking for a place at the time,” Pittman said. “You know, Cade’s not on scholarship or anything. He just wanted to find a place where he thought he could grow. He liked Mark Cala, to be honest with you. He had some sort of relationship with him before, and he obviously knew about Kendal (Briles). So, they struck up a relationship.
“Came here, honestly I didn’t know a tremendous amount about him, except I had recruited his high school because they had an offensive lineman there when I was at Georgia. But he was hurt. So, he knew me, and I knew him because I had been at his high school several times his senior year. And then after that, we had a need there. We didn’t have much depth there, and he came here. He’s been an outstanding member of our team. Very mature kid, works hard, knowledgeable, good thrower and can run. I think if you asked his teammates about him, they’d say he’s been a great addition to the program.”
Arkansas and Mississippi State will kickoff at 11 a.m. on Saturday and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.