Jefferson's commitment to Arkansas doesn't waver

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2019
KJ Jefferson
KJ Jefferson

While some people worried future Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson might have been wavering as the Razorback staff looked to add a graduate transfer quarterback, Sardis, Miss., North Panola head coach Carl Diffee said nothing could be further from the truth.

Diffee said that the record-setting Jefferson (6-3, 211) committed to Arkansas on May 18th and never considered anyone else after that time.

"A lot of kids start flip flopping left and right and a lot of kids don't really know what the word 'commitment' means," Diffee said. "They want to flip flop and be all about the drama on Twitter and want the glitz and the glamour. KJ is nothing like that. All he wanted to do was find a home and when he found that at Arkansas and knew what he was going to do then he was going to come hell or high water."

That didn't mean Jefferson didn't have plenty of other suitors even after the pledge to the Razorbacks, including a late one just before he inked his national letter-of-intent during the Dec. 19 early signing period.

"Texas A&M came in at the end and said if you will de-commit from Arkansas and come take a visit, then you will be our guy," Diffee said. "He said 'no, I am not doing that, I'm a Razorback.'"

Jefferson chose Arkansas over Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Baylor and others.

Ranked as a four-star prospect and the fourth-best dual-threat quarterback nationally by 24/7, Jefferson ended his four-year high school career with 40 wins, a school-record 9,582 passing yards, 2,922 rushing yards and a 143 total touchdowns, including a school-record 119 passing ones.

As a senior, Jefferson threw for 3,180 yards while completing 166 of 275 passing and 37 touchdowns in 14 games for a .604 completion percentage. He also rushed 115 times for 916 yards and seven touchdowns.

"He is going out as school record holder in touchdown passes, completions, total yardage, finished second all-all-time in rushing yards," Diffee said. "He has just set the bar. For years and years, everybody has compared the different players to come through North Panola to guys like Clifton Davis or a Tony Johnson, who went on to play at Alabama. We have had some great players, including five (Clarion Ledger newspaper) Dandy Dozen players before KJ, but nobody that has produced the offensive numbers that he has and that has just set the new standard."

"I'll let (Arkansas offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach) Coach (Joe) Craddock tell him what he needs to work on in terms of developing him because that is his job and he is a heck of a coach and KJ will have the opportunity to learn under him and (Arkansas head) Coach (Chad) Morris, too."

Jefferson is excited about the chance to come in and compete for the open quarterback job on day one, but Diffee believes it might be better for him to ease into things.

He will battle SMU graduate transfer Ben Hicks, and returnees Connor Noland, John Stephen Jones and Daulton Hyatt for playing time at quarterback next season.

"The whole idea of him coming in from day one and having the opportunity to compete excites him and is something that he can do," Diffee said. "He is talented enough to go out there and compete. Now I would prefer he has time to sit back and learn and I was pretty excited when they signed the graduate transfer from SMU. There for a while we thought it was going to be Kelly Bryant and KJ and I both were in agreement and that wasn't a bad thing.

"That's because as a freshman that pressure is tough, especially one that is trying to win and win consistently after a two-win season, those are big shoes to fill. Well, they are and they are not, but at the same time, that is not what they are there for, they are to develop into consistent winners."

Diffee recognizes the fact that the start that Jefferson gets off to is important.

"Quarterbacks, if you start hot, you usually stay hot, but if you don't you have to try and work your way out of it and that's tough," Diffee said. "I am happy he is going to be able to go in and compete, but I am also happy he doesn't have to be the man right away and can hopefully develop and be a better player down the line because of it and won't have those hiccups that come from the butterflies in his stomach so to speak."

Sports on 02/14/2019

Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.