Arkansas Razorback Football

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – To be the best takes being tested by the best.

So Arkansas junior starting nickel back Greg Brooks does his best in practice to align against Arkansas junior receiver Treylon Burks.

“ I feel he’s the best wide receiver in the country,” Brooks said after Tuesday’s practice of defending against the 6-3, 225-pounder from Warren catching 49 passes for 804 yards with seven touchdowns in eight games last fall. “And he’s helping me get better. Like we get each other better. We get better each and every day going against each other. Like man to man, one on ones and all that, that’s the only person I really want to go with knowing that’s a good matchup that we get better.”

Regarding young Razorbacks offensive players off last Saturday’s scrimmage, Brooks marveled at January enrolled freshman Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, recruited out of Rockledge, Fla. as a 6-2, 210 receiver but switched to running back and already appearing to run No. 2 behind returning leading rusher Trelon Smith.

“For the young guys I think Rocket, he’s surprised a lot of people,” Brooks said. He’s running that thing through.”

KJ Jefferson, the third-year sophomore No. 1 quarterback, also sees Rocket launched into the game plan.

“With Rocket coming in and just a bigger body, more explosive also and can make moves in the open field, too,” Jefferson said. “So by bringing him in, he’s just a great athlete. I mean, he can do it all.”

Since he was recruited as a wide receiver Sanders presumably can handle passes throw to a running back.

“Oh yeah, Rocket, he has pretty good hands catching the ball out of the backfield,” Jefferson said.

“He can catch, he can run, he can block, so that’s a great asset for us brining him in.”

Following Saturday’s first of three full scale scrimmages that Arkansas Coach Pittman has planned for spring drills, Pittman said Tuesday’s practice would be devoted to correcting the first scrimmage’s mistakes.

Apparently the defense got things right in Tuesday’s closed practice.

“The whole defense had a good day (Tuesday) Brooks said. “We were 7-of-8 on third down. The whole defense had a great day.”

Who stood out?

““Today, Nathan Parodi,” Brooks said. “Malik (Chavis) got a pick today.”

Chavis, 6-2, 194 from Rison, has moved from cornerback to safety and recorded an interception at his new position during Saturday’s scrimmage.

“Malik, he looks like a big ol’ goalpost standing back there with how tall he is,” Brooks said. “I think it’s been good for him. He’s getting better each and every day.”

Brooks said defensive coordinator Barry Odom has stepped up the defense’s aggression.

“It’s just a lot of stuff from last year that we didn’t run as much,” Brooks said. “Coach trusts us more man-to-man this year, so he feels like we just need to come with it with the blitz this year. I feel like it’s going to help us add another element to our game come the fall.”

Redshirting as a true freshman in 2019 under former Arkansas Coach Chad Morris but starting one game during that 2-10 overall/ 0-8 SEC campaign of Arkansas’ quarterback roulette with five different starters, Jefferson backed up turned pro grad transfer Feleipe Franks last season. With Franks injured and assisting him like a second quarterbacks coach behind offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kendal Briles, Jefferson played the entire 48-45 loss at Missouri and rushed for a touchdown and threw three touchdown passes among 18 of 33 for 274 yards.

“Basically, going into that whole game week, Feleipe was with me,” Jefferson said Tuesday. “On top of that, I had a good week of practice. Me and Coach Briles met a lot during that week. At the game, I just looked at my teammates and told them I was going to lead them and we just got to put our head on and keep working.”

Jefferson’s momentum so carried over that Brooks said the defense feels it, too.

“Ever since January and we came back to workouts he’s been leading the team each and every day,” Brooks said. “Like controlling it. You can tell it’s his team. So he’s going to lead us in the right direction.”

What were Tuesday’s main offensive corrections from Saturday’s scrimmage?

“”Mainly just missed assignments’” Jefferson said. “The linemen up front, just correcting on who they’re pushing protection to. Knowing who the free runner is, the running back. For the skill positions, mainly knowing what routes and seeing open windows and finding open windows. For the quarterbacks, mainly recognizing the defense and knowing what coverage they’re in and getting the ball out of our hands, as well.”

Taking their UA spring break, the Razorbacks don’t practice again until April 1.

They conclude spring drills with their 15th practice at the April 17 Red-White intrasquad spring game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

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