With every Razorback quarterback who announces he’s transferring, the likelihood Arkansas’ next starting quarterback isn’t yet on campus rises.
Cole Kelley and Ty Storey have already announced they will, or will likely, leave campus before the 2019 season. That leaves as the returning quarterbacks Connor Noland, John Stephen Jones and Dalton Hyatt.
Of that trio, Connor Noland logged the most time in 2018, completing half of his 42 pass attempts for 255 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He should improve heading into 2019, but he won’t participate in much of spring practice. Noland will play with the Razorbacks baseball team instead.
Then there’s KJ Jefferson, the dynamic, dual-threat four-star quarterback who can’t wait to get into the Missouri game next season and show up Tigers Kelly Bryant and Jonathan Nance. Jefferson appears to have the qualities Razorback fans and coaches crave — elite athleticism, a strong arm, great accuracy and plenty of confidence.
But alas, he won’t arrive on campus until summer. He may very well be the future of Razorback football, but asking him to put the program on his shoulders that quickly is too much for most any freshman.
UPDATE: Graudate transfer Ben Hicks has chosen Arkansas.
It’s not an optimal setup for the next Razorback quarterback. That’s why 66% of 1,230 Razorback fans polled by Arkansas sports radio host John Nabors said they would prefer an incoming transfer to any current QB on campus or KJ Jefferson.
Arkansas coach Chad Morris hasn’t shied away from his intention of bringing in such a Razorback quarterback transfer. “Absolutely we’re still exploring options to bring an older quarterback in, and we’ll see how that goes,” Morris said during a December press conference. “We are going to look, again, to get older at that position to create some depth. So yeah, we love the guys that we have, but at the same sense, I don’t want to get into a position where we don’t have enough. Where you get injury-prone, and all of a sudden you’re in a bind. But yeah, I anticipate bringing someone in, whether that be January, whether that be early summer or whenever that may be. But, we’ll see. We want the right fit.”
So, who, exactly would be the right fit?
Here are the top two transfer possibilities for the next Razorback quarterback:
Hicks, SMU’s all-time leading passer, is visiting Arkansas this weekend.
Chad Morris knows Hicks well after coaching him for three seasons at SMU. Hicks redshirted his freshman year, and had his best season during Morris’ last season at SMU in 2017. That year, Hicks completed 276 of 472 pass attempts (58.5 percent) for 3,569 yards, 33 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a 140.0 passer rating. Hicks is not the dual-threat quarterback Razorback fans want, however:
Hicks’ numbers dipped last season and he decided to spend his final season elsewhere. He has already visited Louisville, while Georgia Tech is also believed to be in contention, according to 247Sports’ Trey Biddy.
Ben Hicks On His Visit To Fayetteville
“They [Razorbacks] signed three big-time receivers in this class and have the tight end C.J. (O’Grady),” Hicks said. “It’s the SEC so obviously they have some talent, it was just the first year or so. There is potential there.”
“I really didn’t have a host, but I met C.J., I met Trey (Knox) the freshman they came to the basketball game,” Hicks said. “And one of the JUCO offensive linemen was at the basketball game yesterday with us also. Everybody I met I enjoyed being around.”
via Otis Kirk (NwaHomepage.com)
On pros of coming to Arkansas: “Just knowing the staff, knowing the offense… I have dreamed about playing in the SEC. Playing in this league. They had some talent there this year and just couldn’t get it done all the time, but there’s obviously talent there particularly on offense.”
Buechele played in a little more than two seasons for the Longhorns before losing the starting job to Sam Ehlinger.
He had his best season as a freshman, playing a number of high-profile games while throwing for 2,958 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 picks. He showed only slightly more elusiveness on the run than Hicks, though of course against much better competition:
“The Arkansas offense would be a similar scheme to what Buechele ran with Texas football during his true freshman campaign. Former All-American running back D’Onta Foreman was the mainstay of the Texas football offense in 2016, but Buechele’s arm was a nice factor that helped keep the offense balanced,” wrote Andrew Miller of HookemHeadlines.com
Miller had originally forecast Arkansas as the No. 2 top destination for Buechele behind Miami. But that forecast was made before the announcement of former Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos turned Alabama assistant leaving for Miami. Enos will be Miami’s offensive coordinator, too. It’s possible that Enos will get quarterback Jalen Hurts, who will transfer from Alabama, to come along with him.
With improved offensive line play, Arkansas should thrive under Shane Buechele. As you can see below, he throws an elite deep ball down the sidelines — a critical component of stretching defenses in Chad Morris’ RPO scheme.
He also has poise, a sense of humor and the ability to roll with anything thrown his way. For evidence, watch this clip of Cooper Manning (Peyton’s older brother) blitzing him with a number of bizarro questions, including one about his “favorite stage of puberty.”
NB: Buechele hasn’t officially entered the transfer portal yet, but it’s expected he will soon.
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So, who do you want to see as the Hog’s next starting quarterback?