HOGS: K.J. juiced to go home; Notes

HOGS: K.J. juiced to go home; Notes

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FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ starting quarterback and its best cornerback did not participate in last year’s victory over Ole Miss in Fayetteville.

Coach Sam Pittman’s 13th-ranked Razorbacks (4-1 overall, 1-1 in the SEC West) and Coach Lane Kiffin’s 17th-ranked Rebels (3-1, 0-1) clash at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Arkansas sophomore QB KJ Jefferson, from Sardis, Miss., comes home to play Ole Miss.

Jefferson (in Craven Whitlow photo above) said he was excited to leave Mississippi for Arkansas, but he's “very excited” to return as Arkansas’ starting QB.

“I’ve got a lot of family members coming to the game to watch me play,” Jefferson said Tuesday. “They’ve never been to a game. I’m pretty pumped that they’ll be able to make it and come see me play.”

Ole Miss, then under former Coach Matt Luke while Arkansas was under Chad Morris, recruited Jefferson.

“Yes, Ole Miss did recruit me,” Jefferson said. “I didn’t really think that much of Ole Miss just because I wanted to get out of the State of Mississippi. Arkansas just took it away.”

Jefferson didn’t think much of attending Ole Miss back in 2019, but he seems to think highly of Ole Miss’ defense, particularly with the Hogs smarting from Saturday’s 37-0 shutout at No. 2 Georgia.

“Ole Miss defense, they are pretty solid this year,” Jefferson said.  “They got some guys out of the portal. They do really good stuff on defense, a lot of stuff like our defense.”

Aside from the Georgia's five-star talent, the Razorbacks were rattled, (false start penalties) by the 93,000 full-throated fans.

Vaught-Hemingway doesn’t hold as many. And with Oxford’s proximity to Arkansas, there will be a respectable contingent of Hog callers. Still. the stadium holds 64,000, the majority hostile to Arkansas.

“Georgia being truly the first road game, it kind of caught me off guard a little bit,” Jefferson said. “The main thing is just getting into the offensive line’s head early, settling them down. We know it’s going to be loud. We know it’s going to be a hostile environment. Just get settled in as quickly as possible and make sure they make their calls and do all the little details right.”

A year ago, senior Montaric Brown of Ashdown was sidelined by a concussion when his replacement, Hudson Clark, picked off three of the six interceptions that Ole Miss QB Matt Corral threw in his nightmare game in Fayetteville.

Frustrating not to be a part of that?

“I was very excited man," Brown said Tuesday evening, "just seeing Hudson Clark step up and get those three picks last year. It was exciting to watch.”

But it is exciting for him getting a go at Corral, so far beyond his nadir in Fayetteville that he was regarded the SEC’s top returning QB in 2021. He’s established himself as a Heisman Trophy candidate.  Corral has completed 87 of 125 for 1,210 yards and 10 touchdowns with zero interceptions and rushed six TDs.

“He’s a good quarterback," Brown said. “He gets the ball to his receivers and he does what he has to do.”

Arkansas senior linebacker Bumper Pool said Corral will be better prepared for Arkansas’ defensive scheme since Ole Miss now plays a similar defensive scheme.

“Obviously, he's been preparing a lot for our drop-eight,” Pool said.  “We're going to switch things up, try to apply some pressure to him. Our D-Line has been playing really well. Hopefully, we keep him disrupted and make him get out of the pocket and make some errant throws."

All four players, including receiver Treylon Burks, vowed Tuesday that they won’t let a Georgia hangover beat Arkansas twice.

“Georgia is in the past,” Burks said. “We're not worried about Georgia at all. They were a good team. They showed it, but we're not worried about that. We're  preparing for Ole Miss.”

In Oxford, Kiffin’s regrouping Rebels offer similar sentiments coming off a 42-21 loss in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to No. 1 and reigning national champion Alabama.

“We both have a lot to play for,” Pool said. “I think we’re both excited for the challenge.”

Jalen St. John, the 6-5, 330-pound redshirt freshman, and 6-5, 350 sophomore Ty’Kieast Crawford, the University of Charlotte transfer,   operated Tuesday as Arkansas second-team guards behind sophomore starters Brady Latham (6-5, 305) and Beaux Limmer (6-5, 300) in practice.

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