Arkansas backup quarterback Malik Hornsby spent a week in the transfer portal in January. But before he could take his name off the portal and return to the Razorbacks, coach Sam Pittman had one request.
If Hornsby were to return, he had to agree to take reps at wide receiver.
Eight months later, Arkansas football’s preseason practices are underway and Hornsby is working both behind quarterback KJ Jefferson and alongside him.
“We’re formatting our training so that Malik can do both,” Pittman said Wednesday. “In the past we’ve gone (first team) and freshmen, then (second and third team) to the opposite pitch. But this year we’re going to go one and two, and that way we can keep Malik on that pitch so we can practice it at wide receiver.”
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Hornsby showed his speed in the Outback Bowl when he replaced a stoned Jefferson late in the game. He ran for 74 yards on four carries and did not attempt a pass.
During spring training, Hornsby got his first taste of the wide position. He again impressed with his ability to run.
“I’m pretty excited to see him wherever we end up putting him on the pitch,” running back AJ Green said in March. “This man is fast.”
What allows Pittman to give his No. 2 QB the extra reps at receiver is the addition of another quarterback. Senior Cade Fortin joined the Razorbacks in the offseason as a walk-in transfer from South Florida, and he will be named Arkansas’ No. 3 quarterback. Redshirt sophomore Kade Renfro is still recovering from an ACL injury he suffered during bowl practice in December.
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Pittman has seen enough of Fortin at spring ball to feel comfortable experimenting with Hornsby at receiver. Now, with the season opener less than a month away, Arkansas must figure out how to use Hornsby with the rest of their talent on the sidelines.
Oklahoma transfer Jadon Haselwood is expected to be Arkansas’ leader in the position. Pittman pointed to veteran Warren Thompson, highly touted sophomore Ketron Jackson Jr. and Toledo transfer Matt Landers as other players in the mix.
“I said (to Hornsby) we needed him on the pitch,” Pittman said. “We’re going to give him the opportunity to earn the[quarterback]spot, but at the same time give him the opportunity to earn the wide receiver spot as well. We have a plan for that. Hopefully that will work, and I have a feeling it will.”