Prior to the start of the 2023 season, Best of Arkansas Sports took a deep dive into 20 native Arkansans currently playing for FBS programs who were set to break out or continue building on their legacy.
With the season about two-thirds completed, that list is revisited and features some of the aforementioned names, as well as some that you may have forgotten about or recently came onto the scene.
20. Corey Platt Jr. | LB | Tulane | 6-1, 215 | R-Soph.
Corey Platt Jr. unfortunately tore his achilles tendon in the Green Wave’s season-opening win against South Alabama, but what he put on display was a good sign that he was due for a breakout year. He led both teams with 15 total stops, including 10 solo, with a sack. Platt played in 13 games last season and recorded 25 tackles, two for loss with a sack, and nabbed an interception against UMass.
A Little Rock Christian alumnus, Platt helped the Warriors to three consecutive state championship games, winning it all in 2018, and was a three-star prospect by both ESPN and 247Sports.
19. Jadon Jackson | WR | Kansas State | 6-1, 190 | Sr.
Jadon Jackson logged just four games in 2022, his first season with the Wildcats, but has started all but two this year while contributing in each one. Jackson has hauled in 15 catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns, which is tied for second on the team.
The former Bentonville West Wolverine signed with Ole Miss out of high school and played in 22 games for the Rebels with four starts. He compiled over 3,000 yards receiving and 35 touchdowns during his high school career and was a top-5 overall prospect in Arkansas per Rivals and a top-500 player nationally according to 247Sports.
18. Oscar Adaway III | RB | North Texas | 5-10, 220 | R-Jr.
Oscar Adaway III established himself as a redshirt freshman in 2020 when he finished as one of the Mean Green’s top two rushers with 572 yards and three touchdowns, but a torn ACL the following fall camp set him back. However, he had plenty of promise following his recovery as he was named as a College Sports Communicators Comeback Player of the Year nominee prior to the 2022 season. That hype was not a fluke, as he rushed for 583 yards and five touchdowns on 118 carries and has 260 yards with three touchdowns on 60 carries so far this year.
A consensus three-star coming out of North Little Rock, Adaway helped the Charging Wildcats win the 7A state championship his junior season, as well as notch a runner-up finish during his senior year.
17. DeJordan Mask | DB | Central Florida | 6-1, 180 | R-Sr.
Following a successful four-year tenure at Texas State, the Texarkana native and Arkansas High alum opted to join fellow Arkansan Gus Malzahn and play his final collegiate season with the Knights. While his stats thus far may not blow you away – 11 total tackles, eight of them solo, as well as an interception – DeJordan Mask’s experience and overall production is invaluable. For his career, he has compiled 147 total stops, 93 solo, and deflected five passes while intercepting just as many.
16. Layne Hatcher | QB | Ball State | 6-1, 210 | Sr.
The former Pulaski Academy star and all-time leading passer in prep Arkansas football was named Ball State’s starting quarterback prior to the season opener in his fourth and final college stop. Head coach Mike Neu announced prior to last Saturday’s game that Kiael Kelly would be the Cardinals’ quarterback moving forward, but Layne Hatcher still leads the team in passing as of now. He has completed 61 of 95 passes for 565 yards and four touchdowns to one interception, including a 316-yard, three-touchdown performance against Western Michigan on Sept. 30.
15. Dreyden Norwood | Missouri | 6-0, 185 | R-Soph.
Dreyden Norwood, a Fort Smith native and former Northside Grizzly, joined fellow Arkansan Eli Drinkwitz at Missouri last season after transferring in from Texas A&M, where he spent the 2021 season. Norwood logged 14 tackles last year, 11 of those solo with a sack, forced a fumble, batted down three passes and nabbed an interception and is well on pace to surpass those numbers for the 7-1 Tigers, as he currently has 12 stops, six solo, recovered a fumble and batted down two passes.
14. Cole Joyce | LB | Utah State | 6-0, 235 | Soph.
The former Bentonville Tiger transferred in from Central Florida following the 2021 season and contributed mostly on special teams in all 13 games last year, as well as being named Academic All-Mountain West. Cole Joyce currently ranks as one of the top eight tacklers on the team with 20 total, including two sacks, and had a career-high 11 stops against Air Force on Sept. 15.
Also a standout in track and field during his prep career at Bentonville, Joyce finished with just shy of 300 career tackles. He was a three-star prospect and the sixth-ranked overall prospect in the Class of 2021 by 247Sports.
13. Jayden Williams | OL | Ole Miss | 6-5, 300 | Soph.
After compiling nearly 1,000 plays as the Rebels’ starter at left tackle for all 13 games in 2022, Jayden Williams was tabbed a Freshman All-American by College Football News (CFN).
Williams has not started a game in 2023, but appeared in all of Ole Miss’ seven contests. With Williams’ contributions, Ole Miss is one of the top offenses in the Southeastern Conference, ranking third in multiple categories: total yards per game (480), rushing yards per game (189) and points per game (39.7). He has also been named to multiple honor roll teams throughout his collegiate career.
Rated a three-star prospect by both 247Sports and ESPN, the Conway native signed with the Rebels over Kansas and Missouri after he helped the Wampus Cats to the Class 7A state semifinals in 2020.
12. Andrew Chamblee | OT | Arkansas | 6-6, 305 | R-Fr.
Simply put, Andrew Chamblee and the Arkansas offense have endured no shortage of hardships this season between injuries and lack of execution, of which the latter led to the dismissal of coordinator Dan Enos on Sunday. The Maumelle native won the left tackle spot during fall camp because Devon Manuel was battling an injury and has started all but one game thus far, coming off the bench against Texas A&M, while continuing to split time with Manuel. The majority of Chamblee’s snaps have been at left tackle (355), with an additional 10 at right tackle.
11. Isaiah Nichols | DL | Purdue | 6-3, 300 | Sr.
Purdue has not had much to write home about, currently sitting at 2-5 overall and second to last in the Big Ten West standings, but Isaiah Nichols has been one of the Boilermakers’ most productive contributors on the defensive front.
The Springdale native transferred to West Lafayette, Ind., last January and currently leads all Purdue defensive linemen with 15 total tackles, including 10 solo and a sack, which he logged against Virginia Tech on Sept. 9.
The former three-star prospect started all 12 games on the defensive line for Arkansas last season and finished his half decade-long Razorback career with 78 total tackles, including six for loss and 2.5 sacks.
10. Ja’Quez Cross | RB | Arkansas State | 5-9, 190 | R-Soph.
Ja’Quez Cross had a slow start to his career with the Red Wolves last season, but has really settled in and currently leads the team in rushing with 394 yards and three touchdowns on 61 carries.
He has also caught 11 passes for 48 yards, as well as been a strong contributor on special teams with 402 yards on 16 kickoffs returns. Cross’ breakout game came against Stony Brook on Sept. 16 when he ran for 164 yards and two scores on just 15 carries.
The Hampton native graduated from Fordyce in 2021 and signed with Purdue, where he spent the 2021 season before coming to Jonesboro. Cross helped the Redbugs win back-to-back state titles in 2019-20 and was named the 2020 state championship game’s MVP. He was ranked as a three-star prospect and the 11th-best Arkansan in the 2021 class per 247Sports.
9. Samy Johnson | CB | Arkansas State | 5-10, 190 | Sr.
More negatives than positives have occurred for the Red Wolves as a team over the past four seasons, but the former Little Rock Catholic standout is once again having a quality individual season.
Samy Johnson surpassed 100 career tackles, currently sitting at 103, after collecting four in Arkansas State’s loss to Coastal Carolina last Saturday. Johnson leads the Red Wolves with eight pass deflections (half of the team’s 16 total) and has logged 18 tackles, 13 of them solo.
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