Last time Arkansas football went into an SEC West rival’s backyard and landed a quarterback named KJ, it went so well that Sam Pittman decided to do it again.
Following in the footsteps of KJ Jefferson, four-star quarterback KJ Jackson announced his commitment to the Razorbacks on Sunday, picking them over North Carolina just a few days after his second trip to Fayetteville.
Much like Arkansas’ current signal caller, Jackson plays at a high school — St. James School in Montgomery, Ala. — within a two-hour drive of two in-state SEC programs, Auburn and Alabama. Jefferson was from Sardis, Miss., which is just up the road from Ole Miss and not too far from Mississippi State.
Jackson’s first time checking out the Razorbacks was last summer, but he didn’t pick up an offer until Feb. 22 — just a few weeks after Dan Enos was hired as Kendal Briles’ replacement at offensive coordinator.
Although he has also been on North Carolina’s campus multiple times this year, Jackson’s latest visit seems to have pushed Arkansas over the top. Afterward, he told several reporters that it was one of his two finalists and then quickly announced plans for a commitment ceremony in front of family and close friends on Easter.
“We went around the campus, it’s beautiful,” Jackson told HawgBeat after that visit. “It’s not what you would think when somebody says Arkansas — you think about some country, old land and stuff, (but) the buildings were new, renovated everything. Like one of the best facilities I’ve ever been to, so it was amazing.”
The Razorbacks now have five commitments in the 2024 class, with the last two coming on back-to-back days. Jackson joins a trio of four-star recruits in defensive end Kavion Henderson and athletes Noreel White and JuJu Pope, as well as three-star defensive tackle Dion Stutts. Pope committed Saturday.
The Recruitment of KJ Jackson
In addition to their first names and being from high schools within the SEC West footprint, KJ Jackson and KJ Jefferson also have similar builds. In fact, they are almost the exact same size as recruits.
Jackson is listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, which is the same height and one pound lighter than what Jefferson was listed on National Signing Day 2019.
That is where the similarities end, though. Jefferson has bulked up to 246 pounds and is now one of the country’s premier dual-threat quarterbacks, rushing for 1,429 yards and 19 touchdowns for the Razorbacks.
That is likely not in Jackson’s future. He is more of a pro-style quarterback who is capable with his legs. In two varsity seasons, Jackson has completed 65.2% of his passes (219 of 336) for 4,805 yards, 70 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions, while rushing for only 310 yards and 13 scores on 142 carries.
Even before putting up those numbers, Jackson was a known prospect on the recruiting trail. He was offered by Penn State in February 2021, when he was still a freshman. By the end of his sophomore year, Ole Miss, Kentucky, UCF, Louisville, Kansas and Missouri had entered the mix.
North Carolina, Tulane and West Virginia pulled the trigger with offers in the aftermath of Jackson leading St. James to an Alabama Class 3A state championship. That capped a junior season in which he completed 67.3% of his passes for 2,809 yards and 42 touchdowns and helped the Trojans go 13-2.
Unique Commitment for Arkansas Football
The first thing you notice about KJ Jackson when flipping on his highlights isn’t his size, arm strength, accuracy or speed — it’s the fact that he throws with his left arm.
Arkansas hasn’t had a left-handed starting quarterback since Barry Lunney Jr. was at the helm from 1992-95. More recently, walk-on John Rutledge was a lefty when the Razorbacks pulled him off the intramural fields in 2000 and injuries thrust him into action off the bench against Ole Miss.
Across the country, though, there have been several talented left-handed quarterbacks over the past couple of decades. Michael Vick was a four-time Pro Bowler, while Matt Leinart and Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy.
Other successful left-handed quarterbacks over that span include West Virginia’s Pat White, Boise State’s Kellen Moore and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa — and who could forget the late Jared Lorenzen, who was nicknamed the Hefty Lefty at Kentucky.
Only two left-handed quarterbacks have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Ken Stabler and Steve Young.
Jackson Continues Push Into Alabama
KJ Jackson’s commitment continues the Razorbacks’ push into Alabama, where they landed three of their 2023 signees and now half of their 2024 commits.
Special teams coordinator Scott Fountain has played a major role in that, but the position coaches — several different ones — have also helped. Making it even more impressive is that they aren’t landing so-called “diamonds in the rough,” as each of them have been legitimate SEC prospects.
In the most recent cycle, Arkansas signed four-star safety TJ Metcalf out of Pinson Valley, four-star wide receiver Davion Dozier from Moody and three-star cornerback Dallas Young from Gardendale.
It was the first time the Razorbacks brought in three players from the Yellowhammer State in the same class since 1996, when they signed linebacker Quinton Caver (Anniston High), running back Chrys Chukwuma (Sidney Lamar High in Montgomery) and linebacker Jamel Harris (Wicksburg High in Newton).
There is a chance Arkansas could replicate that in the 2024 class. In addition to Jackson, the Razorbacks have a commitment from four-star defensive end Kavion Henderson from Leeds.
That gives them two players in the group and three-star cornerback Tevis Metcalf — the younger brother of 2023 signee TJ Metcalf — could be the third, as he included Arkansas in his top four on Friday. Auburn, Colorado and Georgia Tech are his other finalists.
Check out some highlights of new Arkansas football commit KJ Jackson:
2024 Arkansas Recruiting Class
Here’s a list of the Razorbacks’ current commitments in the Class of 2024…
- DE Kavion Henderson — Leeds (Ala.) — Nov. 6, 2022
- DT Dion Stutts — Memphis (Tenn.) University School — March 11, 2023
- ATH Noreel White — Ocean Springs (Miss.) St. Martin — March 13, 2023
- ATH JuJu Pope — Batesville (Miss.) South Panola — April 8, 2023
- QB KJ Jackson — Montgomery (Ala.) St. James — April 9, 2023
More coverage of Arkansas football and Arkansas recruiting from BoAS…