The Arkansas Razorback football team has had its fair share of quarterback woes over the past two seasons. With a new head Hog at the helm, fans have reason to feel optimistic about the future of the position.
Since 2016, no Razorback quarterback has thrown for more than 1600 yards in a season. The last Hog to accomplish that feat was Austin Allen (3,430 yards). With the Chad Morris era in the rearview mirror, it is realistic to think Arkansas can once again have a statistically successful quarterback.
This season should look like the opposite of the past two, meaning that Arkansas will start a quarterback and stick with him. That quarterback is presumably Florida transfer Feleipe Franks. The graduate transfer has three years of Southeastern Conference experience at the position, and gives the Hogs the best chance of tackling the nation's toughest schedule.
“I think my confidence is through the roof right now,” Franks said in a recent Zoom meeting with the media.“We had a scrimmage [Aug. 28], I felt wonderful, a hundred percent.”
The confidence from Franks is encouraging for Hog fans, who have experienced plenty of let-down at the position in recent years. In his past two seasons as a Gator, Franks completed 61.5% of his passes, throwing for 3,155 yards and 29 touchdowns. His 2019 season was cut short when he dislocated his ankle in a game against Kentucky.
It is safe to say that Franks will be taking the first snap on Sep. 26 against Georgia. He has been the clear frontrunner in fall camp, making impressive throws and receiving praise from coaches and players. The 6’6”, 228-pound quarterback possesses the measurables, and so far he has proven to have the talent to go with it.
“Some of the things that [Franks] possesses that I really appreciate is his work ethic,” offensive coordinator Kendal Briles said in a Zoom conference with the media. “He’s a guy that comes up here and studies the tape, he watches it by himself everyday. He wants the installs before we even have our meetings and I feel like he’s really developing himself into having a leadership role.”
Behind Franks comes redshirt freshman KJ Jefferson. The Sardis, Mississippi, native started the LSU game last season and appeared in three matchups. Jefferson completed 14 passes on 31 attempts for 197 yards along with an interception. He also recorded 58 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
In fall camp Jefferson has consistently run second-team reps for the Razorbacks. He provides Arkansas with a change of pace from Franks and could come in for special packages on offense.
“KJ is doing a really good job of executing the offense,” Franks said. “It’s an awesome QB room and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
The quarterback room rounds off with redshirt sophomore John Stephen Jones, who started the Western Kentucky game in 2019. It also includes redshirt senior Jack Linsdsey, who started the Missouri game in 2019, and the flashy freshman Malik Hornsby.
Whoever starts at quarterback for Arkansas in 2020 should have success. The new era of Razorback football brings more offensive consistency and higher quality of preparation. All of that added with a very talented receiving corps gives the Hogs the ingredients to compete in a daunting SEC schedule.
"[Franks] played like what you certainly hope a veteran quarterback would play,” head coach Sam Pittman said earlier in camp. “From what I see, the relationship is really good between the wideouts and Feleipe.”
With Franks being a senior, the Razorbacks need a plan for once he is gone. That plan begins with Jefferson and Hornsby. With Briles, who has coached plenty of successful college quarterbacks, running the offense and mentoring the quarterbacks, the sky is the limit for these young passers.
“Malik Hornsby has done a really good job," Pittman said. "He's got a really good arm on him. He's fast. He's got a strong arm, an accurate arm."
Arkansas continues to prepare for the season in fall camp. The team wrapped up its second scrimmage of camp this past Friday.