Entering what will likely be his final season with Arkansas football, KJ Jefferson is going the extra mile to make the most of it.
That includes heading west to train for a week at Whitfield Athletix in San Diego, where he teamed up with a couple of players who might draw the ire of Eric Musselman.
According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman on the Move the Sticks podcast, George Whitfield Jr., who founded the quarterback training academy in 2004, had to recruit a couple of centers from San Diego State.
Doing anything with the Aztecs would probably never happen with a proud University of San Diego graduate like Musselman — just look at the fiery aftermath of last season’s matchup with San Diego State at the Maui Invitational — but it was necessary for Jefferson.
The fifth-year senior is transitioning from a Kendal Briles offense that operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun to the more pro-style system of Dan Enos and requires him to go under center a lot more. That explains the need to recruit help from Musselman’s archrival since his days playing basketball for USD and attending the games of the Padres, his favorite major league baseball team.
KJ Jefferson’s Summer
Arkansas football fans won’t care who was snapping him the ball this summer, though, if it leads to a big year in 2023. And the videos of him working on the beach may have made it look like a vacation, but Jefferson’s time in San Diego likely didn’t hurt.
He was working with a quarterback guru, after all, as Whitfield has trained the likes of Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel since starting his academy in 2004. Indeed, Whitfield helped prepare the quarterback to which Jefferson is most often compared, Cam Newton, when Newton was preparing for the NFL Draft after winning the Heisman Trophy.
Other former attendees include:
- Josh Allen
- Bryce Petty
- Landry Jones
- Tajh Boyd
- EJ Manuel
Oklahoma State quarterback Alan Bowman, who previously played at Texas Tech and Michigan, was also at Whitfield’s training camp in June alongside Jefferson.
KJ Jefferson is already on the national radar and considered a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate for Arkansas football, but working with Whitfield was probably also to boost his chances at making it to the next level, where there seems to be less confidence from an NFL perspective.
In fact, the reason Feldman brought him up in the first place was to discuss a really good college quarterback whom he viewed as an intriguing draft prospect, albeit with one issue.
“He’s a really good runner — my guess is he’s probably a high 4.6 guy, if that,” Feldman said. “He’s certainly not what Anthony Richardson did, but he is a very big man and he’s played at a high level. Again, the question I would have is how accurate is he going to be in terms of what the NFL is looking for?”
Jefferson is known for what he can do with his legs and having a strong arm, but the accuracy — despite completing 67.7% of his passes the last two seasons — is an area he hopes to improve this season under Enos.
Feldman mentioned he already fits the mold of guys like Josh Allen, Daniel Jones and Jalen Hurts – big quarterbacks with big arms who can make plays with their legs, but also improved their accuracy upon getting to the NFL.
The Razorbacks are hopeful that, under Enos’ leadership, they get a taste of that improvement while Jefferson is still in college, especially considering the fact that Enos is widely credited with helping Hurts improve as a passer in his final season at Alabama.
No. 1 QB in the SEC?
It’s impossible to be higher on KJ Jefferson than Michael Bratton, who is known as SEC Mike and hosts “that SEC podcast.” He recently tabbed him the No. 1 quarterback in the conference, but did acknowledge the coordinator change as the great unknown at this point of the year.
“He has proven he can take a guy that most people see as just a runner and fine-tune their passing — not that he even needs to do it with KJ,” Bratton said. “But just a different scheme, different things of asking a quarterback to do, how does he transition, I’m curious to see.”
Of course, Bratton also said he was already a really good quarterback and ultra valuable to the Razorbacks, as they likely wouldn’t have made a bowl game the last two years without him.
Bratton has a point, as Jefferson has gone 16-8 as a starting quarterback since taking over the position full time in 2021. He also has an impressive 45-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio over that span, not to mention 1,304 yards and 15 scores on the ground.
The reason he hasn’t garnered more national attention than he has, according to Bratton and his co-host, is simple.
“If you take KJ’s jersey off now and you put a Georgia jersey on him, you put an Alabama jersey on him, there’s no question who the Heisman frontrunner is going to be,” said Cousin Shane, the co-host of “that SEC podcast.”
Check out SEC Mike’s full 2023 quarterback rankings here:
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