KJ Jefferson’s future in the Arkansas football program is no clearer now than when reporters met with Sam Pittman following the regular-season finale against Missouri.
According to a report by 247Sports on Wednesday, the Razorbacks’ all-time leading passer is expected to enter the transfer portal and play his final year of eligibility elsewhere. However, Jefferson quickly refuted the report with a post to his Instagram story:
Arkansas has already seen three players announce their intention to enter the transfer portal, including the surprising decision by linebacker Chris “Pooh” Paul Jr., but Jefferson would be the most high-profile player to do so, by far, if that’s what he opts to do.
After all, he holds numerous career records at Arkansas, where he has started 38 games over the last five seasons and established himself as an elite dual-threat quarterback despite an inconsistent 2023 campaign.
On an open market, Jefferson would likely be highly coveted and pursued by many Power Five programs — including several in the SEC. In fact, he’s already been identified as a potential fit at places like Auburn and South Carolina. However, it’s also probably safe to assume the Razorbacks would love to have him back for a chance at a bounce-back season after what unfolded this year.
Odd Timing for KJ Jefferson
Leaving may very well be what he chooses to do, but KJ Jefferson deciding his plans to enter the transfer portal at this given moment would be a little odd.
As a graduate, he is eligible to submit his name to and appear in the portal at any time. He doesn’t have to wait until next Monday, when it opens to all players.
That means Jefferson could have filed his paperwork immediately following the Missouri game and already be in the portal. Even if he had waited for his exit meeting with Sam Pittman out of respect to his head coach, it’s likely his name would have already appeared. In that scenario, reports would be that Jefferson “has entered” the portal and not “is expected to enter,” as the situation was phrased by 247Sports’ Chris Hummer.
What’s more likely is that Jefferson waited to see what came of Arkansas’ search for its next offensive coordinator. The outcome there became clear Tuesday when reports surfaced that Bobby Petrino would return to Fayetteville and fill the position. That hire became official on Wednesday.
ESPN’s Chris Low reported Petrino would be on campus Wednesday, which would presumably be the earliest he and Jefferson could meet face-to-face.
Unless that happened super early and he not only immediately made up his mind, but also told enough people that it leaked to 247Sports in time for a 9:52 a.m. CT tweet, it seems unlikely that Jefferson would have made a decision yet. That, of course, is what he claimed on social media.
Why He Could Return to Arkansas Football
When Sam Pittman spoke to the media after the Missouri blowout, he had yet to meet with his quarterback, but acknowledged the “Last One” selfie KJ Jefferson shared on his Instagram story likely said it all.
“In all honesty, if he put that out there, that probably means that he’s had all the college or all the Arkansas that he wants,” Pittman said. “I just haven’t talked to him about it.”
Considering his inconsistency this season, it seems unlikely that he’d be taken very high — if at all — in the NFL Draft, which led many to speculate he’d enter the transfer portal.
However, that was before Bobby Petrino was even viewed as a legitimate candidate for the open offensive coordinator position. Assuming Pittman kept things close to the vest, which he’s typically done, Jefferson probably didn’t know who would be calling plays in 2024.
The hire would probably at least make Jefferson consider sticking around because of Petrino’s track record of successful offenses — not to mention the Heisman Trophy winner on his resume.
If they so desire, the Razorbacks could likely pitch him the idea of trying to replicate what Lamar Jackson did under Petrino at Louisville. After all, they’re similar quarterbacks, even if Jefferson is heavier at 247 pounds compared to Jackson’s listed weight of 211 in college.
If the issue is how much Jefferson can make in one last season of college football through NIL, Pittman has expressed optimism that Arkansas will be competitive in that area moving forward. To that end, Arkansas revealed its “Arkansas Edge” collective Wednesday, making it possible for fans to donate directly to the cause.
Whether either of those things would be enough to make Jefferson return for a sixth season remains to be seen. He could just want a change of scenery or to return home to Mississippi, but — as he said on Instagram — he hasn’t made a decision just yet.
More coverage of Arkansas football and the transfer portal from BoAS…