FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Since he arrived on campus, there has been consistent talk about wide receiver Jordan Jones’ immense talent.
The Smackover, Ark., native impressed the coaching staff enough during fall camp last season that he nearly earned playing time as a true freshman. This despite the Razorbacks having a wealth of experienced depth at receiver.
Ultimately, it was decided he’d redshirt. But the rumblings of his ability didn’t stop. Coaches and players often mentioned Jones as a standout scout-team performer throughout the season.
Jones’ capabilities were on full display to those outside the program for the first time Saturday when the Razorbacks held their first spring scrimmage.
Playing with the second-team offense, Jones had 4 catches for 99 yards. He used his exceptional speed, regularly described as his greatest asset, to run away from several defenders while scoring on a 63-yard catch and run. He caught the touchdown pass from quarterback Cole Kelley on a crossing route about 20 yards downfield and did the rest himself.
According to coach Bret Bielema, Jones has just one obstacle potentially standing between him and becoming a star — himself.
“Jordan is tremendously talented, extremely intelligent, but what we’ve got to do is convince Jordan Jones he can be good,” Bielema said following the scrimmage Saturday.
“If Jordan Jones wants to be a really good player, he can be that. He’s long, he’s athletic, he’s got speed. He can definitely catch the ball and he’s more than smart enough.”
The 6-foot-1, 184-pound Jones has worked primarily with the second team through two weeks of spring practices. He’ll have every opportunity to earn regular playing time with Arkansas replacing go-to targets Drew Morgan and Keon Hatcher. His competition, though, is shaping up to be quite impressive.
Jared Cornelius is essentially entrenched as a starter. The other spots are up for grabs with sophomores La’Michael Pettway and Deon Stewart starting alongside Cornelius this spring.
Junior college transfers Brandon Martin and Jonathan Nance are also making strong cases to start next season as they work on adjusting to major college football.
Then there’s converted running back T.J. Hammonds. The coaching staff wants him on the field in some way. He’s pushing for playing time in the slot.
Wide receivers coach Michael Smith said last week he’d like to have at least six players he can comfortably rely on in any situation next season.
“(Smith) is doing a great job with those wideouts,” Bielema said. “We obviously have got a lot of youth in the room and a lot of inexperience. You can see Brandon Martin has got some things. Jonathan Nance made a nice catch. They’ve got talent. Now we’ve got to keep bringing them along.”
Arkansas senior quarterback Austin Allen has seen an advantage Jones may have over every other receiver on the roster.
“He can fly,” Allen said earlier this spring. “He’s smart, he’s tough, he can catch the ball really well. It’s nice having a 4.3, 4.4 guy out there.”