No. 17 Arkansas (4-2, 1-2 SEC) has leaned pretty heavily on its rushing attack through the first half of the season, but if last weekend’s shootout in Oxford was any indication of things to come, the Razorbacks are making strides towards finding more balance offensively.
Make no mistake, the Hogs are still run heavy, and rightfully so. To this point, offensive coordinator Kendal Briles has done a nice job spreading out the carries among quarterback KJ Jefferson and four talented running backs in Trelon Smith, Raheim Sanders, Dominique Johnson and AJ Green. Against Ole Miss, Jefferson threw and completed season highs in passes, and what stood out the most was the way he spread the love throughout his group of wide receivers.
Through the first five games, Jefferson locked in significantly on star wide receiver Treylon Burks with some Tyson Morris and Warren Thompson sprinkled in here and there. Against the Rebels, he targeted six different pass-catchers at least three times, five of which came up with at least three receptions and three who recorded a touchdown.
Burks led the way with seven catches for 136 yards and a score, but critical contributions from Morris, Thompson, receiver turned tight end Trey Knox, receiver turned running back Rocket Sanders and speedster De’Vion Warren loomed large in the moment and when it comes to the explosive potential of the offense moving forward. Sharing the wealth certainly works wonders when it comes to the morale in the room, as well.
“You’re 100 percent right in what it does for the room,” said Pittman. “That’s the biggest thing. I don’t have as many people coming up to my office wanting to talk to me. What it does, it validates your coaching. It validates your coach when you can practice and then go in there and have that kind of success with more than your best player, or your best receiver, or whomever it may be.
“So I think it’s a big, big deal. And not only in room confidence, but more so in we can show the team that if you’ll continue to work, then good things can happen for you. And I think there’s a lot of value in that.”
Burks is still far and away the leader of the group with 29 receptions for 519 yards and three touchdowns so far this season, but Morris (11 catches, 204 yards, 2 TD’s) and Thompson (11 catches, 179 yards, 2 TD’s) have now started to cement themselves as viable options alongside him.
Another intriguing look moving forward is Knox at tight end. He came into last weekend’s game with Ole Miss without a single reception on the year but finished the day with five catches for 37 yards and a score. There will be times throughout the rest of the year where Arkansas will need to rely on bigger, more physical blockers at the position, but when they need a pass-catcher, Knox could be quite the potential weapon.
Knox did come out of the weekend banged up and has missed some time at practice this week. Pittman will try to get him more involved the next couple days in hopes he can contribute this weekend.
“Yeah, he’s beat up a little bit,” said Pittman. “We’re going to get him out there and run around and see a little bit more today than we have in the past two days.”
Arkansas returns to action Saturday, October 16, when they host the Auburn Tigers in Fayetteville (Ark.). Kickoff from Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium is set for 11 a.m. (CT), and the game will be televised on CBS.