Jefferson Hopes to Continue Success in Outback Bowl

December 21, 2021

By JoeyJohnston

When considering Arkansas sophomorequarterback KJ Jefferson, the numbers are stunning.

He's 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds.

"He's a load,'' Penn State coach JamesFranklin said. "He's a problem.''

As a starter in his first season -which culminates when the Razorbacks (8-4) meet the Nittany Lions (7-5) in theJan. 1 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium - Jefferson has displayed otherjaw-dropping numbers as well.

He has completed 66.9 percent of hispasses for 2,578 yards, 21 touchdowns and just three interceptions (includingone on a desperation Hail Mary toss). Additionally, he has rushed for 554yards.

Jefferson played sparingly in hisfirst two seasons, including a 2020 stint as the understudy to Feleipe Franks,the transfer from Florida. Jefferson displayed potential, but no one reallyknew what was ahead. And that included Arkansas coach Sam Pittman.

"In spring ball, I wasn't (certain)for sure if we could actually throw it and catch a pass,'' Pittman said. "Mostof the time in the spring, everything is closed, then you have some kind ofcrummy spring game. You can't move the ball. Everybody hates you.

"This time, I opened up everyscrimmage to the public. I wanted to know if I had a big-time quarterback, agamer. He responded (to people watching). He amped up his game. It becomesconfidence. And for me, it becomes confidence in him.''

Pittman said he was surprised atJefferson's running ability.

"We really didn't know what we hadwith him as a runner,'' Pittman said. "We started adding some more plays forhis legs. He throws a really good deep ball and has a lot of touch on hispasses. He was efficient all season. Hopefully, that will propel him intobigger and better things.''

For the first time in Razorbackshistory, Arkansas won all three of its trophy games by defeating Texas A&M(Southwest Conference Trophy), LSU (Golden Boot Trophy) and Missouri (BattleLine Rivalry). Jefferson helped Arkansas to its first bowl-game appearancesince the 2016 season.

If Arkansas defeats Penn State, theRazorbacks will have their first nine-victory season since 2011.

Jefferson will be missing his primaryweapon - receiver Treylon Burks (66 catches, 11 touchdowns) will not play toconcentrate on NFL draft preparations - but sees the Outback Bowl as a massiveopportunity.

"For this bowl game I just feel likeit's time for the young guys to step up with Treylon out,'' Jefferson said."Everybody is going to get their opportunity. For the younger guys, theiropportunity is in front of them with Treylon stepping away.

"I just want to make sure those youngguys feel as comfortable as possible and confident also. I always tell them,'This is your opportunity. Make the most of it. Have fun. You've been playingfootball since you were little, so there's nothing much to it. Just have funand play ball.' ''

That's what Jefferson has done all seasonand it paid off with a trip to the Outback Bowl.

"KJ had a wonderful season,''Razorbacks running back Trelon Smith said. "He's a true leader and a truechampion.''