COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M safety Leon O'Neal already has heard the comparisons for Arkansas' KJ Jefferson. He agrees wholeheartedly that the dual-threat quarterback comes as advertised on film.
"He's got a lot of Cam Newton about him," O'Neal said. "I think he's a big-time leader on that team. We have to be able to stop him on everything we do.
Jefferson is a different breed of a mobile quarterback. It's something the No. 7 Aggies (3-0) A&M has yet to face in 2021, though the mobility aspect has been a constant through three games.
Kent State's Dustin Crum rushed for 61 yards. Colorado's Brendon Lewis led the charge in Denver with 76. New Mexico's Terry Wilson finished with -14 yards, but nine carries proves that the Lobos were willing to pound the ball.
The No. 16 Razorbacks (3-0) won in Week 3 thanks to balanced attack offensively. The first two weeks? Pound the ball was the way to go.
And it's looking to be A&M's lone weakness in what could be the top defense in the SEC.
"The team were playing right now is an experienced team," A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. "They don't have a young team. This group has a lot of fourth, fifth, sixth year guys on their team and they're probably playing as well as anybody in the country."
Jefferson's growth passing was on point in a career-high day against Georgia Southern Saturday. During the third quarter, he found wide receiver Warren Thompson in perfect stride for a 60-yard touchdown.
Red zone efficiency wasn't a problem since he connected with Tyson Morris on a 14-yard score in the second quarter.
Playmakers help, too, so the Aggies shouldn't be sleeping on Treylon Burks, A quick bubble screen from Jefferson would go 91 yards for the game-sealing touchdown against the Eagles.
Arkansas means business in the second season of the Sam Pittman era. Jefferson's development both as a runner and passer only makes the Hogs a more plausible threat.
"You see that running at you and you're like 'Ok, I need to be ready for that,'" O'Neal said of Jefferson's legs. "That's alarming."
Pushing the ball on the ground — quarterback or not — has worked against the Aggies' front seven. The Golden Flashes rushed for 226 yards in Week 1. The Buffs tacked on 171 and New Mexico added another 89.
In all three outings, Arkansas has recorded at least 240 yards rushing, including a season-high 333 yards against then-No. 15 ranked Texas.
Meanwhile, Jefferson is more than just a one-trick pony. Even on plays that look like he's going deep could change in instant, leading to him tucking the ball and picking up the first with his legs.
"Just because you hit him doesn't mean he goes down," Fisher said. "He's going to be a heck of a challenge, there's no doubt about it."
A&M enters Saturday with College Football Playoff implications on the line. Maybe the Hogs do as well since they will be ranked for the Southwest Classic for the first time since 2016.
Rivalry games are always a challenge. Since the game moved back to Arlington in 2014, five games have ended in a one-possession win for the Aggies.
Each season, one could argue quarterback play from Arkansas has limited the potential of pulling off the upset.
Maybe this time around, it's their strength.
"Arkansas is a growing brand right now in football," O'Neal said. "They're doing a lot of good things. They're bringing that physical brand of football back."
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