Deon Stewart, Jordan Jones broke out, and they will be essential for Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Welcome to college football, Jordan Jones. A hurting and inexperienced Arkansas wide receiving corps is happy to have you. Now the Razorbacks appear to have officially found their next trio.

A week after Jonathan Nance’s breakout game at wideout, Jones and Deon Stewart had theirs.

Jones, a redshirt freshman, had long been touted by the coaching staff as a playmaker. His speed could, at some point, unlock opposing defenses. It hadn’t yet, by no fault of Jones’ own. Saturday against New Mexico State, however, the Smackover (Ark.) High product had 4 catches for 84 yards.

Stewart, a sophomore, had 4 grabs for 71 yards and a touchdown.

Not earth-shattering numbers, certainly, but they need not be yet. All quarterback Austin Allen needs is another option. Or two. He lost his top three targets from last season — Drew Morgan, Keon Hatcher and Jeremy Sprinkle — and his best returning one, Jared Cornelius, was lost for the season last week against Texas A&M with a ruptured left Achilles. Nance established himself as a primary for Allen last week. Jones and Stewart are the supplements.

“Deon, really, for the first time practiced healthy,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “Tweaked his ankle in the opener. Jordan Jones, again, a guy last year we wanted to play but because the way it all worked out, didn’t play him. Jonathan Nance, again, just continues to, I think him and Austin have a nice connection.”

Stewart had done it before. He’s been listed as a starter since the spring and has never looked out of place. He hadn’t done a whole heck of a lot yet, either, but nothing suggested he was going anywhere. Jones was the one waiting to break out. A diving catch early Saturday ensured his name was said over the public address system to loud cheers.

Jones made his way into the fold with 2 carries for 50 yards against Texas A&M. His one catch that day lost a yard. Still, he was around. It was clear offensive coordinator Dan Enos wanted to make a point of getting Jones the ball. It was only, too, two games after Bielema said the Razorbacks were going to trim their wide receiver depth chart. Instead of giving reps to eight or nine guys through the week, they wanted to focus on about five. Jones was among that group. So was Stewart.

“I think they’re both very dynamic. They’re two different players, too,” Bielema said. “Deon’s a very shifty guy. Very quick. Jordan is on the flip side of that. He’s very fast. Better on long routes, vertical routes.”

They aren’t quite Morgan-Hatcher-Cornelius, but they are making a name for themselves. Doing this against a team of higher quality than the Sun Belt’s New Mexico State is the next step. And that step comes in seven days, when the Razorbacks travel to Columbia, S.C., to play the Gamecocks.

As of 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon, South Carolina is 113th in the country in stopping the pass. Another plan like that against New Mexico State, and maybe those numbers will be earth-shattering.

“I think there was a very conscientious effort by [wide receivers coach Michael Smith] and [Enos] to get those guys involved in the game plan so you can see what they do,” Bielema said. “So a defense can say, ‘We have to be aware of where 13 [Stewart] is, where 10 [Jones] is and what they can do.’”

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