Midseason(ish) Awards: Arkansas’ top 3 offensive players of the year

·3 min read

Before the season began, one would have been hard pressed to find someone outside Razorbacks Country to find a ton of confidence about where Arkansas would be offensively this year.

That preseason feeling last, oh, about one half of football.

At the two-thirds mark of the season, Arkansas is one of the best offensive teams in the country. With an SEC schedule and Texas having been on the slate, even.

Some better-than-expected years out of some backs. A steady stream of complementary players to the star out wide. A superb performance from a first-year quarterback. Arkansas has had things go right.

Here are the top three players on the Hogs offense through eight games.

3. RB Trelon Smith

Sep 18, 2021; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks running back Trelon Smith (22) rushes for a touchdown against the Georgia Southern Eagles during the first quarter at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Smith took over as starter about this time last year, when Rakeem Boyd decided he had had enough of college football. In those 12 games, Smith has run for 846 yards and eight touchdowns.

This isn’t a year ranking that dates back like that, though. In the 2021 season, Smith’s numbers have been steady and tops on the team. He has 459 yards and four touchdowns. The total is just 12th in the SEC in yards per game.

But Smith has taken his role and led the charge. He may not have the ideal individual totals of an All-SEC back, but he’s the leading rusher on an the sixth-best rushing team in the country. That counts for something.

2. QB KJ Jefferson

Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) passes against Mississippi during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Oxford, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Once upon a time, KJ Jefferson was considered the worst starting quarterback in the SEC.

Remember that nonsense?

It was nonsense then, now it just looks insane.

The sophomore throws for just over 200 yards a game, which isn’t a glamorous total. But he completes those passes at a 62% clip and has 15 touchdowns and three interceptions. Only three quarterbacks in the SEC have better ratios and two of them are the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy in Matt Corral and Bryce Young.

And his feet? He’s run for 419 yards, third amongst SEC quarterbacks. His five scores are second.

Worst quarterback? Jefferson should be in the top three or four.

1. WR Treylon Burks

Sep 26, 2020; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Treylon Burks (16) gets past Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Richard LeCounte (2) and goes on to score a touchdown during the first quarter at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Georgia won the game 37-10. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Freak. Beast. Stud. Whatever positive designation for Treylon Burks you have, it probably fits. With 42 catches for 717 yards and seven touchdowns, no wideout in the SEC can quite match his output.

If it weren’t for Burks, Jefferson wouldn’t have the season he’s having. The Arkansas backs wouldn’t have the season their having. Burks changes every single thing about the Hogs offense and strikes abject terror into defensive coordinators. He’s the sort of player you have to gameplan around.

Simply put, Arkansas hasn’t had a player quite this good since Darren McFadden terrorized the opposition 15 years ago.

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