HOOVER, Ala. • Any given SEC roster could include a second-year senior taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility offered by the NCAA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman has 11 of those players, and he’s given them a name: super seniors.
The super seniors combine with 12 “regular” seniors to give the Razorbacks an experienced roster that Pittman believes can elevate from a 3-7 finish in his debut season.
Two-thirds of the Razorbacks’ wins came against the state of Mississippi. Arkansas snapped a 20-game SEC losing streak by winning at then-No. 16 Mississippi State in Week 2. Later they would force seven turnovers in holding off Ole Miss in Fayetteville.
The Razorbacks also defeated Tennessee.
The experience for 2021 is enhanced by a coaching staff without turnover at key positions.
“I’m very proud that we were able to keep our three coordinators and our strength coach,” Pittman said. “People start coming after your coaches if they’re any good.”
Among the super seniors returning is linebacker Grant Morgan, a first-team All-SEC selection whose 12.3 tackles a game tied for the national lead last year.
Morgan is one of nine starters returning on defense.
There’s less experience at quarterback where the expected starter is third-year sophomore KJ Jefferson, a Mississippian from Sardis.
Jefferson’s dual threat capabilities could expand the playbook for offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.
Improving an offensive line that ranked last in the SEC in sacks allowed was one of the focus points of spring practice.
“When you have guys that could have gone to the NFL then decided to stay it really means a lot,” Morgan said. “It’s a testament to (Pittman) and his staff.”