Looks Like Kendal Briles’ Magic Dust Is Working a 3rd Straight Year: Arkansas Football Practice Insights

Malik Hornsby, Arkansas football
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — One of the biggest knocks on KJ Jefferson before he became Arkansas’ starting quarterback as a junior was his accuracy. He answered those concerns with a vengeance, posting the second-best single-season completion percentage in school history last year.

That came a year after Feleipe Franks set the record, breaking a 41-year-old mark previously held by Kevin Scanlon. It remains to be seen what’s in store for Jefferson in Year 2 as the starter, but offensive coordinator Kendal Briles’ magic accuracy dust seems to have found backup Malik Hornsby, as well.

In the brief 11-on-11 team period during the 20-minute portion of Sunday’s practice open to the media, the redshirt sophomore looked sharp with his passing, going 4 of 4 with all of his completions being on the money.

It started and ended with a short completions to Jaedon Wilson and Quincey McAdoo, respectively. The catch by Wilson was particularly impressive, as he likely heard footsteps because Jayden Johnson was coming down from his safety spot and could have laid a big hit if they were going live.

In between those catches, Hornsby checked down to Nathan Bax and also hit the tight end in stride on a pass up the seam. Overall, it was a nice passing day for a player who is also spending some of his time in fall camp as a wide receiver — which jibes with what head coach Sam Pittman told reporters after Friday’s practice.

“Well, Malik, he’s obviously improved his accuracy, but he used to throw a 95 mile an hour fastball,” Pittman said. “I mean, it just knocked the guy down. It was an uncatchable type of pass. He’s really improved his touch, I think.”

Here are a few other tidbits from Sunday’s practice…

  • Although he made the aforementioned nice grab during Sunday’s team period and hauled in a deep ball on Day 1, Jaedon Wilson has still shown signs of inconsistency. The redshirt freshman dropped a deep ball on Saturday and also dropped a short pass Sunday — both in a routes-on-air period.
  • The first- and second-team offensive line looked the same as it did the last couple of days, but the Razorbacks did shuffle things up with the third unit. Redshirt freshman Terry Wells was inserted at left guard, which moved freshman Patrick Kutas to right guard and redshirt freshman Cole Carson to right tackle. Even though the first two of those positions are sort of the same, it says a lot that Pittman and offensive line coach Cody Kennedy think enough of a true freshman — one that didn’t enroll early, nonetheless — to get work on both sides of the line this early in camp.
  • During a one-on-one session at the very end of the viewing period, the wide receivers got the best of the defensive backs in the few reps seen by the media. Jadon Haselwood made an impressive grab in the end zone despite solid coverage by Jalen Catalon, Warren Thompson also made a nice catch with Hudson Clark all over him, and Ketron Jackson Jr. got by Khari Johnson for an easy catch.
  • Tight ends Trey Knox and Tyrus Washington each made tough receptions during the aforementioned team period. Their passes were thrown by Jefferson and Cade Fortin, both of whom put the passes where only their guy could catch it.
  • Something to keep an eye on: former blue-chip recruit tight end Hudson Henry has not been one of the three tight ends during those team periods the last two practices. He was the third-team guy on Day 1.

Read our Day 2 observations here.

And see the Day 3 highlights here:

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Arkansas Football Injury Report

Here are a few injury notes on the Razorbacks based on what was observed during media viewing periods and things head coach Sam Pittman says in interviews. Best of Arkansas Sports will update this section throughout camp…

  • After not going through drills Saturday, linebacker Chris Paul Jr. was back in action Sunday and didn’t appear to be slowed by anything.
  • Although he’s “ahead of schedule,” according to Pittman, running back Dominique Johnson is still recovering from offseason knee surgery and will not be able to participate in practice for about a week or so.
  • He was held out of most of spring ball for precautionary reasons, as he’s still dealing with lingering back issues, but right tackle Dalton Wagner has been at practice the first few days of camp.
  • Defensive back Jacorrei Turner is still in a green non-contact jersey. Pittman told reporters that he is dealing with a shoulder injury that the Razorbacks are being cautious with.
  • For a third straight day, the only other player in green was offensive lineman Marcus Henderson. Pittman revealed after Friday’s practice that he’s dealing with a pectoral injury. It’s “nothing serious,” but he’ll probably be held out of contact drills for at least another week.
  • Wide receiver Jaquayln Crawford is back with the team after suffering a broken leg in a car accident over spring break that required a rod to be placed in his leg. “I thought Crawford did a nice job today, fighting through all of that,” Pittman said Friday. “He’s been cleared, I don’t know that he’s 100%, to be perfectly honest with you.”
  • After missing most of spring ball with an undisclosed injury, offensive lineman Terry Wells is back at practice. He is a redshirt freshman out of Wynne High School who appeared in only one game last season.
  • Despite being an early enrollee, linebacker Mani Powell missed all of spring ball as he recovered from a torn ACL suffered early in his senior season at Fayetteville High. He has been a full participant in fall camp so far.
  • Quarterback Kade Renfro is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered during Arkansas’ bowl practices last December. He is not expected to be back in action until the first or second game of the season, so he was left off the 110-man camp roster. He’ll be spending his time in the training room going through rehab.
  • In a bit of a surprise, one player who is on the 110-man roster is defensive tackle Taurean Carter, who is currently out with a knee injury that required surgery this summer. Pittman hasn’t said what the exact injury is, but did tell reporters that the staff thought it was important for him to go through meetings and attend practice during camp.
  • Another player missing from fall camp is redshirt freshman Chase Lowery, but it is not due to injury. He was just left off of the 110-man camp roster and will rejoin the team when classes start Aug. 22. Others left off the 110 are walk-ons: kicker Blake Ford, tight end Hunter Talley, long snapper Briggs Magee, wide receiver Kamron Bibby, punter Patrick Foley and defensive linemen Randall Dennis Jr. and Logan Hurst.

Splitting Up RB Reps

The Razorbacks have a deep stable of running backs, even with Dominique Johnson still out as he recovers from offseason surgery.

Rocket Sanders is currently the first-team guy, according to both Pittman and running backs coach Jimmy Smith, but the depth behind him is a little hazy.

“Dominique is special, so of course you want him out there, but like I said, it’s next man up,” Smith said. “The next man is going to make sure he holds it down until he gets back. Everybody just moves up and does his job until he comes back.”

In Saturday’s team period, freshman Rashod Dubinion went with the second unit and AJ Green went with the third unit. On Sunday, though, Sanders was held out of the period and Dubinion went with the 1s, Green with the 2s and redshirt freshman Javion Hunt went with the 3s.

Based on those two days, it seems like Dubinion might have the edge on Green, but Smith said not to read too much into it when he met with reporters Saturday.

“The biggest thing is I give everybody opportunities to go with different guys to see stuff,” Smith said. “For my guys, what I want to do, I have an inventory of what I want to see with certain plays. If I see something on the script I want to see you run, I’ll put you in another group.”

Check out what TE coach Dowell Loggains and a few tight ends had to say after Sunday’s practice. Below is an excerpt where Loggains compares the transfer portal to NFL free agency:

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And here’s the long version:

YouTube video
YouTube video


Feleipe Franks Update

It looks like Feleipe Franks, now a member of the Atlanta Falcons, is going down a similar dual-position route as Malik Hornsby. Except where Hornsby is moonlighting at receiver, Franks has been turning heads as a tight end:

More coverage of Arkansas football in fall camp from BoAS…

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