By Otis Kirk
FAYETTEVILLE — No. 25 Arkansas is readying for No. 23 Mississippi State with the status of quarterback KJ Jefferson still not known.
Jefferson was injured late in the Alabama game and hasn’t practiced on Monday or Tuesday. Sam Pittman talked about the game that is coming up on Saturday.
“Well, our team is a little beat up,” Pittman said. “We’re trying to get healthy. Don’t know exactly the status on several of our kids yet. But we’ll be ready to play. We’re excited to go to Starkville and play Mississippi State. They’re playing extremely well.”
With Jefferson’s status still unknown how has Cade Fortin and Malik Hornsby done this week in practice?
“Our quarterbacks have had a really good week of practice,” Pittman said. “Obviously KJ has not practiced to this point. We still don’t know whether he’ll be able to practice today or not. Our rule kind of is you’ve got to practice on Wednesday if we’re going to play you on Saturday. So it’s just kind of a wait and see. Honestly I don’t know if he’ll be able to practice today or not. But there’s obviously a chance that he will.”
While he hasn’t practiced, Jefferson is still able to attend meetings and do much of the normal activity outside of on the field.
“Yeah, he’s been in all meetings,” Pittman said. “He’s been to both practices. We’re just waiting to see if he’s able to practice. In all honesty, I don’t have that answer right now as we’re sitting here. If he’s able to practice, then we’ll certainly practice him. If he’s not, then we won’t. That’s certainly not my call. But whatever that is, then we’ll look at them and go from there.”
Fortin was 4 of 10 passing for 35 yards and rushed for nine more in replace of Jefferson. Hornsby offers speed that maybe Fortin doesn’t have so Pittman talked about Hog fans possibly seeing both on Saturday if Jefferson can’t play.
“Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a real possibility that we would do that,” Pittman said. “Certainly we would go with a hot hand, I would say. But in our game plan, there’s certainly opportunities for both of those kids to play if KJ can’t.”
Fortin and Hornsby, much like Jefferson, were four-star quarterbacks coming out of high school. Fortin spent two years at North Carolina before heading to South Florida for two years. Prior to this season, he had played in 11 games with two starts. He had completed 61 of 121 passes for 610 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He had rushed 27 times for 152 yards and two more scores. Pittman was asked on Wednesday why he decided to bring Fortin to Arkansas?
“I think he was just looking for a place at the time,” Pittman said. “You know, Cade’s not on scholarship or anything. He just wanted to find a place where he thought he could grow. He liked Mark Cala, to be honest with you. He had some sort of relationship with him before, and he obviously knew about Kendal (Briles). So, they struck up a relationship.
“Came here, honestly I didn’t know a tremendous amount about him, except I had recruited his high school because they had an offensive lineman there when I was at Georgia. But he was hurt. So, he knew me, and I knew him because I had been at his high school several times his senior year. And then after that, we had a need there. We didn’t have much depth there, and he came here. He’s been an outstanding member of our team. Very mature kid, works hard, knowledgeable, good thrower and can run. I think if you asked his teammates about him, they’d say he’s been a great addition to the program.”
Entering this season, Hornsby had played in eight games with no starts. He was 5 of 12 passing for 46 yards. He also had 26 carries for 135 yards and one touchdown.
Arkansas and Mississippi State will kickoff at 11 a.m. on Saturday with the game televised on the SEC Network.