A bruised clavicle that limited Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson in practice last week but not in last week’s 21-19 loss to Liberty has added uncertainty to this week’s LSU game.
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said Wednesday that the 240-pound Jefferson did some throwing in practice earlier this week but to hear LSU coach Brian Kelly tell it, he’s expecting the Razorbacks to play their best quarterback in Saturday’s game.
No. 7 LSU (7-2, 5-1 in SEC) visits Arkansas (5-4, 2-3) for an 11 a.m. kickoff in a SEC West Division battle with the winner leaving with the Golden Boot Trophy.
The game will be broadcast locally by 98.1-FM.
“You have to prepare for all three quarterbacks,” Kelly said of Malik Hornsby, Cade Fortin and Jefferson during his Thursday post-practice news conference. “We know that there is some question about that (Jefferson’s shoulder injury). I’ll believe it when I see it is kind of how I’ve always prepared, but they won’t be as dynamic.
“If he (Hornsby) hits a seam, if you are not precise in your run support, he’ll go the distance so that gets your attention,” Kelly added. “He threw for 234 yards against Mississippi State, he can push the ball down the field. I think he was responsible for like 72-73% of the production in that game, so he can produce. That’s a real quarterback. There’s no doubt he brings some different elements to the game. And I think the biggest one is, is that that element of speed.”
Jefferson has completed 148-of-222 passes for 1,9881 yards with three interceptions and 17 touchdowns. He’s also the team’s second-leading rusher with 117 attempts for 425 yards and six touchdowns.
Jefferson nearly brought Arkansas all the way back from a 21-0 deficit but was stopped on a two-point conversion run with 1:11 left in the game. Hornsby has played in six games with 244 yards passing and a touchdown and 137 yards on the ground without a score. Fortin has appeared in two games and passed for 43 yards without a touchdown.
Here’s what else Kelly had to say:
On adding offensive guard Garrett Dellinger to rotation instead of starting?
“I felt like when you talk about coming off of an injury in particular his situation, where he hasn’t played on the offensive line where we’ve gotten some pretty good continuity over the last few weeks. Insert him as the game kind of unfolds and all the guys that we’ve done that, Armoni Goodwin, have come back without any setbacks. I think it’s been met with from (LSU trainer Beau Lowery) Beau perspective, approval, and it’s worked out pretty good.”
On continued progression of Jayden Daniels?
“A lot of it is technical. It’s the proper footwork. It’s being in the right position to throw the ball on time. I think the best illustration is the two-point play. He didn’t make that throw earlier in the year. He would not have made that throw. This is a combination of tactically being sound, tactically understanding what’s going on and mentally being in a better position because he’s so much more confident. And let’s not forget he’s put on since he’s gotten here about 15 pounds physically, so, his preparation is so much better as the season has unfolded.”
Any update on cornerback Sevyn Banks?
“That’s kind of a week-to-week situation. He’s better. He’s been in conditioning, but I can’t offer you anything else other than he feels good. He’s got full mobility and flexion, but that is a determination that’s being made based upon MRIs which he’s scheduled to get another one. But he’s made similar progress to Major Burns.”
On team’s response in practice this week?
“We won’t have any excuses for this being anything else but performing against a really good Arkansas team. Our preparation has been good. Our attention to detail, all the things necessary to go on the road in the SEC and play a really good football team. Our guys understand what’s at stake, but they stayed focus on the right things. And that’s the things they can control. They can’t control anything else but their preparation. They did a nice job.”
On having your defensive front go right at Arkansas’ offensive line?
“Well, I think controlling the line of scrimmage is always part of any game plan, and certainly I think they have an outstanding center. I think central to what they want to do is run the football, so clearly what we need to do is be really good against the run, But I’d be a broken record with that comment. I think each and every week, I’ve talked about our ability in some fashion, to control the line of scrimmage. We have to do a really good job up front and recognize that’s really what they want to do is run the football.”
On offensive guard Anthony Bradford remaining in starting lineup?
“We’re gonna play that guy that’s more consistent. (Miles) Frazier is involved in that, too. There’s a three-man rotation there. We think that there’s enough reps for all three of them, because I think they’re all quality SEC linemen. We’re going to play them all and keep them fresh. I think it’s an advantage we’re going to use it as an advantage more so. I just think it makes us better now that he’s in the rotation. Competition’s always good, so we’ve got a little competition there. We can lean on them a little bit. If we don’t think they’re practicing up to the level, that we can ask them to stand over next to me and that gets their attention a little bit better.”
On constantly having to motivate team all season?
“Well, if they’re asking me to keep the fire lit, we’re in trouble. I’ve never been a guy that that subscribes to the theory that it’s my job to motivate them. It’s their job to motivate themselves and so building that kind of intrinsic motivation through their preparation is my job. I need to prepare them, that’s my job. And through preparation, they’ll build confidence that they’re ready to play. But if I got to give rah-rah speeches and do all that kind of stuff, we’re going to be an up and down football team. And that hasn’t been the case. So, we’ll continue to work on their preparation there. We’ll continue to work on the things that are important to being successful on Saturday and one of them is that it’s their job to motivate themselves.”
On cohesion of offensive line?
“I think when we started to look at settling in with Emery Jones at right tackle and obviously, we had Will (Campbell) at left tackle, I think that kind of solidified things for us. That’s when the continuity and the consistency was good. I think that’s when it started to kind of take hold and really build an identity. That that’s kind of how we see it as a staff.”