Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Who will take snaps for Arkansas in 2019?
Arkansas quarterback Connor Noland throws a pass during a game against Missouri on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in Columbia, Mo.
FAYETTEVILLE There’s no telling who is going to be the starting quarterback next season at Arkansas.
Will it be Ty Storey, Connor Noland, John Stephen Jones, Daulton Hyatt, Jack Lindsey, incoming freshman KJ Jefferson, or a junior college or graduate-transfer contestant to be named later?
What we do know is who it’s not going to be, and that’s Clemson-to-Missouri graduate transfer Kelly Bryant or current Razorback Cole Kelley, who announced his decision to transfer earlier this week.
Jefferson (6-3, 215 pounds), Mississippi’s Class 3A Mr. Football and a four-star prospect per 24/7’s composite rankings, is one of seven prospects taking official visits to Fayetteville this weekend.
He is the favorite of many because he is new and exciting and has done nothing to tarnish his reputation.
Storey was 143 of 250 passing this season for 1,584 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while playing in 10 games, and Kelley got in nine games while connecting on 35 of 67 passing for 455 yards with five touchdowns and five picks.
Noland was 21 of 43 passing for 255 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in four games while Jones was 1-of-6 for five yards in three games.
Storey finished with 146 yards rushing, Noland 85, Kelly 73 and Jones 15.
The extremely productive Jefferson just finished up a four-year run as a starter for Sardis, Miss., North Panola, during which he set career school records of 9,654 yards passing and 119 touchdowns while also rushing for 2,922 yards and 24 more scores.
He is coming off a senior season in which he completed 166 of 275 passes for 3,180 yards with 37 touchdowns and 8 interceptions while leading his team to a 12-2 mark.
Jefferson also rushed 115 times for 916 yards and seven more scores during a season that ended with a 43-28 loss to Water Valley in the MHSAA Class 3A semifinals.
Water Valley rallied to win after Jefferson hurt his leg in the fourth quarter and had to leave the game after throwing three touchdown passes.
North Panola had routed Water Valley 52-19 back on Oct. 26 to claim its second straight Region 2-3A conference title.
Jefferson’s quest to be the Razorbacks’ starter next season would have gotten a boost had he been able to graduate early, enroll in January and go through off-season work and spring practice instead of his expected arrival at the end of May.
I have been consistent in stating that I think it takes a very special true freshman quarterback, especially when he is not an early enrollee, to be able to start immediately in the SEC.
It will be interesting to see if Storey, Noland, Jones or any other addition can cement his role as the starter before Jefferson arrives.
Jefferson chose Arkansas over Missouri, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky and others, and he was on Georgia’s radar early on and was offered by the Bulldogs as well.
It will be a huge jump from Mississippi’s Class 3A to the SEC, but Jefferson has been putting in extra time with QB Country, which tutors NFL quarterbacks as well as current and future college quarterbacks.
One of their clients is Mississippi native and Washington State signal-caller Gardner Minshew, who passed for 4,477 yards and 36 touchdowns this season.
Jefferson’s work with tutor Thomas Morris at QB Country — which is based out of Mobile, Ala., and has 10 locations in eight states — has clearly improved his technique and attention to detail.
Jefferson will be visiting this weekend along with four offensive linemen who could be blocking for him next season.
They are Scranton (Pa.) Lackawanna Community College’s Chibueze Nwanna (6-8, 314), Iowa Central’s Myron Cunningham (6-5, 300), and Razorback pledges Dylan Rathcke (6-5, 290) and Searcy’s Drew Vest (6-5, 283), who has committed to the Razorbacks as an early enrollee preferred walk on.
Arkansas is also scheduled to host wide receiver pledge TQ Jackson (6-3, 190) of Jefferson, Texas, and former LSU linebacker Sci Martin (6-4, 240), who played this season for back-to-back junior college national champion East Mississippi Community College.
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