The Arkansas Razorbacks performed a lot better against Alabama than many thought they would. While they still came up short, the contest was close throughout and the Razorbacks have shown that Sam Pittman’s coaching is working.
By Matt Zemek
The on-field results combined with the eye test show that Arkansas is making significant improvement under Pittman and his staff. There’s a very real chance that this team could play the role of spoiler in the SEC West in the coming years. The loss against Alabama was only by seven points, 42-35. If the Razorbacks can build on that, they have a chance of being an even better football team in the near future. Up next is a chance for Razorback defensive coordinator Barry Odom to get some revenge on his former employer, Mizzou.
1 – K.J. Jefferson needs to keep evolving
There’s no denying that K.J. Jefferson has had a bumpy ride this year. He has had some games in which he has been the difference maker, and other games in which he was largely absent from the fray and couldn’t make a significant impact on the outcome. That was not the case against the Crimson Tide. Jefferson posted 326 yards on 22-of-30 passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Pittman and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles decided he would be better served as a pure passer rather than in a dual-threat role against Alabama. That was the right move for Arkansas. It’s clear that at this stage in his development, Jefferson needs things simplified and manageable. Perhaps a full offseason with Briles will get him more comfortable with the things he wants to do in the future. For the moment, Jefferson needs to carry the passing groove he had against Bama and carry it into this game versus Missouri. Arkansas and Mizzou have been known to play wild shootouts in recent years. Jefferson needs to be ready to sling the rock accurately.
2 – Feed Treylon Burks
Treylon Burks has been a beast for Arkansas this year. He’s averaging 16.5 yards per catch and has posted 10 touchdowns on just under 1,000 yards receiving. The junior wide receiver has been making significant strides this season, evolving to a massive extent. He has grown by leaps and bounds compared to where he was to start the year. Outside of the Georgia contest and the LSU game, Burks has produced absurd numbers. Remove those two bad games and he is still averaging 19.2 yards per catch. If he sticks around for his senior season, he could easily be among the top receivers in the nation for 2022 and a clear Biletnikoff Award contender. Jefferson needs to get the ball to him consistently versus Missouri.
3 – Contain Tyler Badie
The Missouri running back posted 146 yards against Florida. He is the heart of the Missouri offense. Containing him has to be the first priority for a defense which has lost a lot of steam ever since it shut down Texas A&M in late September.
This Mizzou game gives the Razorbacks a chance to finish the year at 8-4 with a bowl game on the horizon. This is a quality football team and they’re still learning to fully carry out what Pittman is asking of them. They’re getting there, but they can’t allow themselves to think they have fully arrived. There is more to pursue. A strong finish coupled with the return of some of their top talent could leave the Hogs in a strong position for 2022. Sell that story and bring in a few high-profile recruits; the outlook for Arkansas will continue to point upward.
Stopping Tyler Badie and finishing strong against Missouri will give this program the catapult it needs for the coming offseason.