Razorbacks kicker Little enters NFL Draft; O-Line coach sacked

Arkansas kicker Cam Little (29) makes a 41-yard field goal as punter Max Fletcher (31) holds Nov. 4 during a 39-36 overtime win over Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. Little announced Friday he will declare for the NFL Draft.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)
Arkansas kicker Cam Little (29) makes a 41-yard field goal as punter Max Fletcher (31) holds Nov. 4 during a 39-36 overtime win over Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. Little announced Friday he will declare for the NFL Draft. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Cam Little, the most accurate placekicker in University of Arkansas history, announced Friday he was declaring for the NFL Draft.

After a whirlwind few days that featured the hiring of former Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino as Sam Pittman's offensive coordinator, Friday's news was more about the exodus from the Razorbacks' football program.

Offensive line coach Cody Kennedy's tenure with the Razorbacks came to a close as he was announced as the new offensive line assistant for newly-hired Mississippi State Coach Jeff Lebby.

Kennedy's departure was not unexpected after a tough season for the Arkansas offense, particularly the play of the line. Pittman addressed shoring up the front a few times in his postgame remarks following last week's 48-14 loss to Missouri to cap the Hogs' 4-8 season.

"We've got to shore up a lot of things, and that's the main thing we've got to get fixed," Pittman said.

Little's leaving with a year of eligibility remaining cost the Razorbacks one of their top scoring weapons and one of the nation's most accurate kickers.

In his announcement, the native of Moore, Okla., thanked God and all of his coaches and teammates for making memories at Reynolds Razorback Stadium during his "incredible journey in Fayetteville."

He added, "After much time and prayer with my family, I have decided to forego my senior year at Arkansas and enter the 2024 NFL Draft."

Little is leaving school as a record-holder on multiple fronts, including career field-goal percentage with an 82.8% mark after making 53 of 64 attempts. He is the first Arkansas kicker to convert 80% of his career field-goal tries, surpassing Connor Limpert (78.6%) for the school record, with Zach Hocker (77.2%) now in third.

Little made 20 of 24 field goals as a freshman and junior and that season percentage of 83.3% is fifth on the UA single-season chart. His 13 of 16 makes (81.3%) in 2022 is good for eighth on the single-season accuracy list.

He also converted 4 of 5 field goals from 50 yards or longer this season. He made 129 of 129 extra point tries in his career, the most without a miss in UA history ahead of Cole Hedlund's 91. His 129 converted extra points ranks third on the career chart behind Hocker's 171 and Alex Tejada's 136. Little is second in UA kick scoring with 288 points behind only Hocker's 354 points.

A Pittman protege having served as a graduate assistant at Georgia when Pittman was the Bulldogs' offensive line coach, Kennedy was a semifinalist in 2021 for the Broyles Award, which is given annually to the top assistant coach in college football. The Razorbacks ranked seventh in rushing in the FBS that season with 227.8 yards per game.

The Razorbacks upped that figure in 2022 with 236.5 rushing yards per game under offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, which also ranked seventh nationally, and they were 15th in total offense with 470.3 yards per game. The team's 6,128 total yards were the second-most in school history behind the 6,273 yards generated by Petrino's 2010 team.

However, the Arkansas offense struggled almost all season under new coordinator Dan Enos this year, and poor offensive line play was one of the top culprits.

Arkansas allowed 47 sacks, the most in the SEC and more than all but four FBS programs. The Razorbacks were 89th in the FBS with 139 rushing yards per game and 106th with 326.5 total yards per game.

Kennedy, a native of Florence, Ala., who played collegiately at Southeastern Louisiana, has been the highest-paid non-coordinator on the Arkansas staff the past two years with a salary of $700,000. He had a season remaining on the three-year agreement he signed in March 2022.

Baylor offensive line coach Eric Mateos, a graduate assistant under then-head coach Bret Bielema and then-offensive line coach Pittman on the 2015 Arkansas team, is considered among the candidates to replace Kennedy.

Mateos served as offensive line coach for the Liberty Bowl after the 2015 season following Pittman's departure for Georgia. Arkansas defeated Kansas State 45-23 in the Liberty Bowl on Jan. 2, 2016.

Arkansas fans are also awaiting word on the future plans for record-breaking quarterback KJ Jefferson, who was thought to be leaning toward declaring for the NFL Draft prior to the season.

Jefferson has another season of eligibility remaining thanks to the plus one awarded by the NCAA to players on college rosters during the covid pandemic of 2020. Jefferson reportedly had the highest NIL compensation package among Arkansas athletes in 2023 and could command more if he plays his final season in college.

Various entities reported Jefferson was planning to enter his name in the NCAA transfer portal earlier this week, but Jefferson responded on social media by saying he had not made a decision yet.

Pittman was asked Thursday about Jefferson's status.

"I'd rather not really answer that out of respect for KJ and things of that nature," Pittman said. "KJ's given to the university good years and a lot of records and things of that nature. Whatever he wants to do we'll be supportive of it."

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