Why is Arkansas one of the most balanced offenses in the country? K.J. Jefferson

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KJ Jefferson doesn’t lead the SEC in passing. He doesn’t lead the league in rushing, either. Not even among quarterbacks.

He’s also only a sophomore in his first year as a full-time starter, so checking at No. 7 and No. 3 in those rankings is quite the achievement.

Before the season, Jefferson, the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder, was called the 14th best quarterback in the SEC, a league with only 14 teams. Then Jefferson led Arkansas to a 4-0 start, racking up seven passing touchdowns and another two on the ground. In the last three games, he’s thrown another nine touchdowns and run for another three.

Arkansas averages 249 yards rushing and 216 yards passing per game.

“We’re fairly close to 50-50,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said about his team’s balance in plays. “But at the same time we’re just doing whatever we can to score points, and we’re going to be a little higher this year running the ball because obviously we’re doing it at a better rate.”

Jefferson is a big reason why. Pittman said many of the quarterback’s runs are built out of the en vogue RPO. RPO is the acronym for “run-pass option,” where the quarterback reads the defense and adjusts on the fly. It’s a concept that has found more popularity in college football over the last decade-plus, but one that still requires a quarterback with a high IQ to pull off.

Against Ole Miss, Jefferson ran for 85 yards and threw for 326, several of which came from RPOs. He also left the game with a tweak of his knee. Nothing too serious, Pittman said, but that’s part of the reason Jefferson left at halftime against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and it’s a big reason the coach said he’s glad the bye came.

“I’ll tell you this, Monday was as good a day as he’s had,” Pittman said.

Scary for Mississippi State.