FAYETTEVILLE — KJ Jefferson and Jadon Haselwood have spent the summer working to continue building chemistry as a powerful passing combination for Arkansas.
The two are redshirt juniors, but they didn’t become teammates until January, when Haselwood was traded from Oklahoma to Arkansas – where Jefferson is preparing for his fourth year in the program and his second season in as a starting quarterback for the Razorbacks.
Haselwood, a wide receiver, has played 25 games at Oklahoma since his true first season in 2019 and had 62 catches for 736 yards and 7 touchdowns. Last season, he had 39 catches for 399 yards and 6 touchdowns, a team high.
“Jadon is coming,” Jefferson said earlier this week when he, Haselwood and safety Jalen Catalon worked at a youth camp at the UA intramural grounds. “Just being able to go from a different system he was in in Oklahoma to a spread tempo offense, he picked it up very quickly.
“I love his progress. He comes and works hard every day. We even have extra work. We sometimes come in at night and work.
Jefferson said he would often get a text from Haselwood about meeting at the Walker Pavilion after dinner.
“We’re working on different routes and getting our timing,” Jefferson said. “It could be getting on the board [to draw up plays] or watch a movie or break down a route concept, then get out and walk the route.
“Speaking the same terminology, we will speak on Saturday. Making sure he and I are on the same page and connecting.
Jefferson rushed for a team-record 664 yards last season when the Razorbacks went 9-4 with an Outback Bowl win over Penn State, but he also completed 198 of 294 passes (67.3 %) for 2,676 yards and 21 touchdowns with just 4 interceptions.
“I would say I’m here for a reason,” Haselwood said with a smile when asked about Jefferson’s passing ability. “Everything makes sense. The statistics don’t lie.
“KJ’s work, it all shows, and I’m excited about this season.”
Haselwood attended spring training but wore a non-contact green jersey most of the time after injuring his left shoulder.
“I just polished [it] kinda on a take,” Haselwood said. “I fell and someone landed on me. You know how it goes. That’s the game.
“I still went through the spring at full speed. Just no contact. My shoulder is perfectly fine now. It’s 100% sure.”
Catalon, a junior who earned All-SEC honors in 2020 but missed the final seven games last season after undergoing right shoulder surgery, worked against Haselwood in drills last spring and in training this summer.
“KJ and Jadon, they worked together,” Catalon said. “They have been consistent about it.
“KJ, as a quarterback, is a great leader, and Jadon is hungry to be the best he can be. He’s going to be a great addition to this team. I’m thrilled to have him here.
The Razorbacks lost their leading receiver of last season when Treylon Burks entered the NFL Draft and was a first-round pick by the Tennessee Titans after catching 66 passes for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Haselwood should lead a group where the best returning players are Warren Thompson (19 catches for 304 yards last season) and Ketron Jackson (5 for 97). The Razorbacks added another experienced receiver when Matt Landers was traded from Toledo.
“I feel like we have an elite corps of wide receivers coming into fall camp and into the season,” Jefferson said.
Haselwood said he likes the depth of the Razorbacks.
“Everyone pushes themselves to be awesome,” he said. “Everyone in the receiver room is good.”
Haselwood, listed at 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds, said he also had a productive summer in the weight room.
“From a coaching standpoint, it’s definitely different in the SEC,” Haselwood said. “I wouldn’t say I’m dying, but it’s a different job.
“We push more weight. I can feel my body changing and getting bigger and stronger for sure.
Jefferson said Haselwood’s height is a plus.
“He brings physicality,” Jefferson said. “Looking at his highlights, he loves contact. He makes contact. A guy can’t tackle him.
“His ability to catch, you put the ball anywhere near him, a 50-50 ball, he’ll do it 9 times out of 10. Or 10 times out of 10. To be able to have a guy like that is huge. ”