HOGS: Freshmen QBs; more notes
FAYETTEVILLE - Redshirt freshman quarterback John Stephen Jones will start Saturday, and true freshman KJ Jefferson will quarterback, too, against Western Kentucky, Arkansas coach Chad Morris said Monday.
Either Ben Hicks or Nick Starkel, both graduate transfers, have started all games for the Razorbacks (2-7 overall, 0-6 in the SEC) going into Saturday’s 11 a.m. SEC Network televised non-conference game against Western Kentucky (5-4), quarterbacked by former Razorbacks QB Ty Storey (in Craven Whitlow photo above) of Charleston.
Jones off the bench for Starkel in the second half of Arkansas’ 48-7 SEC loss at Alabama, directed the Razorbacks’ lone scoring drive that game which he finished with a touchdown pass.
Again off the bench for Hicks in last Saturday’s 54-24 SEC homecoming loss to Mississippi State at Reynolds Razorback Stadium that Arkansas trailed, 38-10 at half, Jones again threw a second-half touchdown pass.
Jefferson, who can retain his freshman eligibility in 2020 playing just the final four games of Arkansas’ 12-game season, then debuted with a 21-yard run then a 32-yard pass to freshman receiver Treylon Burks before finishing the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
“I was really pleased to see John Stephen Jones and KJ Jefferson come in and provide a spark for our offense leading touchdown drives,” Morris said. “We’ll start John Stephen Jones this week. I’m excited for him. We will play KJ as well and continue to develop him. I believe about half of our starters this season have been freshmen or sophomores.”
Morris was asked more about starting Jones, the grandson and son of Dallas Cowboys owners and former Razorbacks Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones.
“I think when you look at his prior performance when he stepped on the field, the last two weeks, the moment has not been too big for him,” Morris said. “I think he did a great job coming out and playing with grit and toughness and just providing a lift.”
Is there a set plan when to insert Jefferson or does that go by feel of the game?
“We’ll probably have a plan in place for that whenever we have a chance to get him in there,” Morris said. “But it’ll be soon (into the game). Give him a chance to get some valuable reps and experience. I’m excited about John Stephen and KJ. I think those guys (against Mississippi State) you felt the lift on the sidelines. I know I did, when they went in.”
Jones and Jefferson took all the snaps in Sunday’s practice, Morris said with Arkansas using Monday as its NCAA mandated off day and resuming practice Tuesday.
Senior tight end Cheyenne “C.J.” O’Grady, still Arkansas’ leading receiver with 33 catches for 372 yards, did not play against Mississippi State and is not returning for the last three games, Morris said Monday.
“We met Sunday evening and both mutually agreed that what’s best for C.J. and what’s best for this football program is for him to step away for the final three games to help him prepare for what’s next in his life,” Morris said. “We’re here to help him with that.”
O’Grady is considered a NFL prospect.
Named the Crip Hall Award winner as Arkansas’ outstanding senior in the homecoming game, linebacker De’Jon “Scoota” Harris and team’s career best player, earned the honor even as the Razorbacks dreadfully defensive with Mississippi State amassing 640 yards total offense.
“It’s impressive to watch Scoota Harris play and just his relentlessness and his ability to continue to sell out every play,” Morris said. “It’s very inspiring. When you have your best player selling out like that it allows me to use him as an example exactly what the standard is and what’s accepted here and how we play.”
TAKING THE BLAME
The general team performance against Mississippi State was “unacceptable,” Morris said Monday reiterating postgame comments last Saturday.
“I as well as our entire staff take full responsibility for it,” Morris said. “There was nothing though the course of the week that ever indicated a performance of that magnitude or lack thereof.”
Senior left offensive guard Austin Capps, missing the last three games with a concussion, is expected back this week, Morris said but kickoff returner De’Vion Warren, injured against Mississippi State, is out this week, Morris said.
PRAISING STOREY, ALLEN
Morris spoke glowingly of Storey, his starting quarterback for nine games of last year’s 2-10 season and the success he’s having as the graduate transfer starting quarterback at Western Kentucky.
“We’re excited for Ty,” Morris said. “Ty has had a really good year and is playing really well. We’re proud for him. He’s tough. He’s gritty.”
Morris opened the press conference congratulating Brandon Allen, lettering as Arkansas’ quarterback from 2012-2015 and the son of Bobby Allen, the Razorbacks director of high school operations and variously coaching all defensive positions from 1998-2012, for winning his first NFL game coinciding with his first start in the Denver Broncos’ 24-19 triumph Sunday over the Cleveland Browns.