Arkansas Razorbacks cornerback Jerry Jacobs opts out, declares for NFL Draft
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Jacobs opts out, declares for NFL Draft

Jerry Jacobs started Arkansas' first three games of 2020 before suffering an injury.
Jerry Jacobs started Arkansas' first three games of 2020 before suffering an injury. (Arkansas Athletics)

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FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will be without one of its most experienced defensive backs the rest of the season.

Head coach Sam Pittman revealed during his weekly Zoom videoconference Monday afternoon that cornerback Jerry Jacobs had opted out of the Razorbacks’ remaining six games.

Shortly after that announcement, Jacobs confirmed the news and declared for the NFL Draft via Twitter.

“After much prayer and discussion with my family, I’ve decided that it is best for me to opt out of my final year and declare for the NFL draft,” Jacobs wrote. “I have worked long and hard for the opportunity to play in the NFL and believe this is the right time to pursue this goal. I’m humbled and excited to attack this next challenge.”

A graduate transfer from Arkansas State, Jacobs started the first three games of the season before suffering an injury in the Auburn game. Although he returned the following week, true freshman Khari Johnson - who filled in for him against the Tigers - started and played more snaps against Ole Miss.

With cornerback Montaric Brown expected to return after missing the last two games with an injury and considering how well redshirt freshman walk-on Hudson Clark play against the Rebels, it was unclear if and when Jacobs would regain his starting job.

In four games with the Razorbacks, Jacobs made 17 tackles, including one for a loss. His 249 defensive snaps are the fourth-most on the team this season, but Pro Football Focus has given him just a 59.4 overall grade. That ranks 54th among the 86 SEC defensive backs with at least 100 snaps in 2020.

In his place, Johnson - a two-star recruit from Boston - has posted a 57.6 Pro Football Focus grade over 90 defensive snaps. He is officially credited with five tackles and a pass breakup.

As well as he’s played, Clark is expected to move over and play the cornerback spot opposite of Brown, assuming he’s healthy enough to return to the starting lineup against Texas A&M on Saturday. That would make Johnson the first cornerback off the bench.

If the Razorbacks have to dig further into their depth, there is uncertainty about who would be next in the pecking order. Redshirt freshman Malik Chavis was previously listed as Brown’s backup on the depth chart, but missed the Ole Miss game with an undisclosed injury.

Redshirt freshman Devin Bush and true freshman Nick Turner have each gotten a handful of snaps this season and would seemingly be the next candidates. Another possibility would be LaDarrius Bishop, who has been the backup nickel this season, filling in at cornerback if needed.

Jacobs is the second experienced cornerback to opt out this year. He follows in the footsteps of two-year starter Jarques McClellion, who announced his decision a couple of days before the Mississippi State game.

He missed the Georgia game because he was in quarantine for the second time since returning to campus over the summer for voluntary workouts. However, it was not a guarantee that he would start, as Brown and Jacobs seemingly separated themselves during preseason camp.

Three other players further down the depth chart have also opted out of this season: offensive lineman Chibueze Nwanna, wide receiver Shamar Nash and defensive back Jordon Curtis.

As part of the regulations put in place because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, players who opt out remain on scholarship and in good standing with the team. They can return in 2021 without penalty.

Even though he is a fifth-year senior, Jacobs could have also decided to return next season - whether or not he opted out - because the NCAA has granted all players an extra year of eligibility. That does not appear to be an option now, though, because of his decision to declare for the NFL Draft.