Kendal Briles Impressed With QB Play In Spring


FAYETTEVILLE — Kendal Briles has turned down jobs to remain at Arkansas as he is set to start Year 3 with Sam Pittman.

Following Saturday morning’s practice in Reynolds Razorback Stadium Briles talked about his decision to remain at Arkansas.

“The head football coach, Sam Pittman, working for him,” Briles said. “You know, the University of Arkansas, the state of Arkansas. I’m not going to say there’s not a ton of loyalty in college football as far as coaching. I’ve felt loyal to Coach Pittman giving me the opportunity to be here. Obviously you’ve got to look at everything from a career standpoint and what you think is best. I feel like I made the right move staying here and being with the guys and the coaches and the coaching staff being able to keep all that intact is pretty unique. A lot of times you don’t get that.

“And the players. Having KJ (Jefferson) back, it would have been really, really hard to look at KJ and tell him I wasn’t going to be here, just because I love the kid and respect him so much and want him to be able to achieve his goals. Being here for the players and the state and raising a family here, there’s not a better place to do that. So I absolutely love it here and hope I can stay for a long time.”

Arkansas has now completed nine practices this spring. Briles talked about how it has gone and also mentioned a first with Jefferson.

“Looks good,” Briles said. “I think we’re third year in the system, so obviously that makes a big difference. And then having your quarterback back, which you can’t put a price tag on that. Just having that guy back with experience. It’s actually the first time in my career as a coordinator having a return starting quarterback, so it’s just so nice to be able to have that. Speaks the same language, knows what to expect. Main this is staying healthy, so through nine practices we’ve been able to do that, so that’s the most important thing.”

With Jefferson returning after starting 13 games what are the points of emphasis with him this spring?

“Yeah KJ, great year last year,” Briles said. “At the end of the day, it’s about winning at the quarterback position, and do you win football games. You do that with a lot of variables, but do you win? And he was able to win games last year, and a lot of times out the team on his back and go do it. Really proud of where he’s at as a leader, on and off the field. With things that he needed to get better at, the RPO world that you are all familiar with, and being able to put the ball into the belly of the running back and be able to snap real fast and get it out and be accurate with it, especially to moving targets. The SEC West is tight windows, and so you’ve got to be very accurate with it. That’s some of the thing that we’ve been working on, to be able to be Incredibly fast and compact with his release to get the ball out and hit guys in the face, which is what we’re trying to do. So, he’s done a really good job of that. And basically, his leadership I think has been so key to the success of the offense moving forward.”

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Malik Hornsby is No. 2 on the depth chart. This spring he’s also getting some reps at wide receiver. Briles likes the direction Hornsby is going this spring despite working at two positions.

“Yeah, it is a unique balance with him,” Briles said. “First of all, talking quarterback, just incredibly pleased with where he’s at – mentally over everything else. He’s got the ability, we all know that, but taking care of the football and making good decisions is above all else playing that position. He’s been able to do that. I’m really, really excited about where he’s at. Obviously, we’re a little bit different if he’s playing the quarterback position, and we’ll call it that way. Yeah, just very pleased with how he’s attacked that and held that number two spot. And done a really nice job and honestly put pressure on KJ the way that he’s playing. Really excited about what he’s done there.

“He’s such an elite athlete. And you’ve got 85 guys on scholarship, just try to get the best guys on the field to help you win. Obviously, we lost a lot of receivers, so trying to give a little boost to that room, as well. And not doing a whole lot with him to be honest with you, but just finding ways to be able to get him on the field and playing several different positions. So, that’s what we’ve been able to do this spring. It’s been good to be able to look at.”

Cade Fortin is a redshirt senior transfer from the University of South Florida. He’s getting third-team reps now.

“Fortnite, Cade Fortin, has done a really nice job,” Briles said. “He’s a tremendous kid if you get a chance to talk to him. Very, very smart, low-maintenance. I’d say he’s been perfect from a decision-making standpoint, except for his decision on two-minute today where he didn’t throw the ball out of bounds. Besides that, he’s been great. He’s great in the room, the players like him, he’s an experienced guy. He’s played at North Carolina, at South Florida and played meaningful snaps. So, I think we stole one in getting him here, and he’s actually got two years. Great to have him in the room. It’s amazing that he’s here and playing the quarterback position and how smart he is, to be able to make decisions and know what we’re doing. It’s been nice.”

Arkansas’ other quarterback is redshirt sophomore Kade Renfro, who is out following surgery for a torn ACL. How is it looking for the former Ole Miss transfer to be able to play this fall?

“He’s saying that he’s going to be ready for fall camp,” Briles said. “We’ll see. Everybody heals differently. I think he’ a little behind, personally. I’d like to see him moving around a little bit better, but we’ve got a great medical staff and Dave Polanski has done a great job with him and his rehab. He’s going to end up being fine. He takes care of his body. The thing I worry about more than anything is how thin you get just not be able to be in the weight room, and he’s a guy that needs it. That goes on to being healthy when he does get back, just having the weight and muscle on him to support his frame. He can throw the heck out of the ball and he’s really smart. It’s been good having him. He’s just got to get well, so we’ll see how he progresses.”

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