The Razorbacks enter the 2021 spring football season with a group of four quarterbacks on scholarship–with another on the way this summer.
Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles is tasked with replacing former Gator transfer Feleipe Franks who threw for 2,107 yards on 163 completions with 17 touchdown passes, four interceptions and an Arkansas record-setting completion percentage of 68.5. Franks came to Arkansas and he did what he needed to do–working his way into draft consideration as a late-round prospect while helping the Hogs reach three conference wins.
Briles has a youthful room for the 2021 season, which is why we can’t count anyone out as spring practices begin on March 9. Redshirt freshman KJ Jefferson, a former Rivals250 4-star from Mississippi, will start the practices as the group’s leader because of what he was able to show in 2020–but will he hang on to the roll through the spring game on April 17 and beyond?
Jefferson has seen time on the field in his two seasons due to both injury and the infamous Morris QB carousel, but it was his performance this year in the Missouri game that solidified his legitimacy for QB1 in 2021. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound freshman threw 54% against the Tigers for 18 completions, 274 yards and three touchdowns. Being a dual threat, Jefferson also added 32 yards rushing with a TD in 12 attempts.
One good performance, however, guarantees nothing for Jefferson. Houston native Malik Hornsby has been practicing in Briles’ system just as long as Jefferson and of the other quarterbacks on the roster, he’s the most likely to push for the starting job. Hornsby was the only other quarterback to see the field for the Hogs in 2020.
Hornsby is also categorized as a dual-threat but he’s more slender and light on his feet than Jefferson, giving him the advantage in terms of athleticism. Jefferson does have the size and strength advantage.
Arkansas media was barred from practices during the 2020 season due to COVID19, so it’s unclear how Hornsby’s passing game has developed since he arrived a year ago.
A dark horse candidate for the job is true freshman early enrollee Lucas Coley. However, the San Antonio native was a 3-star dual-threat at a private Texas high school, so he may need time to adjust to the caliber of athlete he’s facing at this level.
The Hogs also have former Ole Miss scholarship QB Kade Renfro on the roster as a walk-on but until the NCAA passes immediate eligibility legislation, he isn’t in the mix to play in 2021 at all.
Unlike the past two years, Arkansas is not in pursuit of a graduate transfer quarterback, so we do know that they’ll be selecting a starter from this crop.