For a week in January, it appeared that Malik Hornsby was taking his talents elsewhere.

After 2 years at Arkansas, the former 4-star recruit entered his name into the transfer portal. It was hard to see fault in that. He could leave and play immediately with 3 years of eligibility left. After KJ Jefferson’s breakout 2021 season, the younger Hornsby wasn’t entering the offseason in a quarterback battle. There was a clear pecking order.

He didn’t start in 2021, and behind the durable Jefferson, Hornsby was limited to just 81 snaps, most of which came in mop-up duty. If being a starting quarterback was what he sought in Year 3, an injury to Jefferson was seemingly the only way Hornsby’s path would clear.

But a week later, Hornsby did a 180. He decided to stay at Arkansas with the understanding that he’d start taking reps at receiver. As we saw in the spring game, Hornsby did indeed line up out wide. He also still took snaps at quarterback, though his accuracy issues were on display in a 4-for-14 showing.

So the question is obvious: How can Hornsby’s speed and vision be used in Arkansas offense?

In a perfect world, Hornsby would spend his summer mastering route-running techniques and he’d provide the Razorbacks with some much-needed depth at the position. Instead of taking quarterback reps, Hornsby would work with the wideouts while South Florida transfer Cade Fortin proved to be a viable backup.

Does that world exist? Maybe, maybe not. Ask DK Joyner or John Rhys Plumlee if it’s easy to make a mid-college switch from dual-threat quarterback to every-down receiver in this league. Shoot, even former Ohio State star Braxton Miller did that at a high level, and he still only caught 25 passes for 340 yards in 2015 (he also had 43 rushes for 261 yards).

It’s hard. Really hard, especially for a guy who lined up as a receiver once in his college career.

But perhaps the ideal scenario for Hornsby’s role looks a bit different. Could he perhaps serve as a developing receiver and a relief pitcher-type of player to spell Jefferson at quarterback late in games?

We know that Jefferson played through a knee injury and he’s coming off minor offseason surgery. Has he been durable? Absolutely. That Georgia game, as ugly as it was for the Arkansas offense, should answer any questions about his toughness. But if Jefferson is going to take on the contact he does in the ground game, having him taking hits on RPOs deep into games could catch up to Arkansas.

What do I mean by that? Take the Penn State game. Up 24-10 with just under 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Arkansas wasn’t going to put the ball in the air. Hornsby entered for Jefferson. The Hogs ran 6 running plays and put the game away without giving the ball back. Hornsby gained 35 yards with his legs, and a banged-up Jefferson didn’t have to take another hit.

I’d like to see that game plan tweaked. Bring in Hornsby even earlier. At the start of the 4th quarter, let’s see Hornsby take over in a 14-point or 17-point game. Most teams can’t do that. Most teams don’t have the No. 1 rushing attack in Power 5. Arkansas had just that. When the offensive line can impose its will, you can be somewhat 1-dimensional.

Say what you want about Hornsby’s limitations as a passer. The guy completed less than 60% of his passes in high school. Accuracy has never been his strength. But as a runner? He’s a potential game-changer. That speed is a change of pace from Jefferson’s powerful, dynamic style.

Wait. Did I say Hornsby didn’t have some power? My bad.

That A&M game, by the way, saw Hornsby take 20 snaps. He entered for an injured Jefferson, but he struggled with handling snaps. Consider that a byproduct of not working with the first-teamers as much. He still had a career-high 6 rushing attempts.

That ability is absolutely there. Remember his first touch of 2021? It was a 29-yard run against Texas in the final minutes of the Week 2 rout.

Kid is indeed dynamic. He looks like the fastest guy on the field whenever he’s on it.

You could use that skill set on end-arounds. Get him involved in the running game as a receiver a la Treylon Burks, who had 38 career rushing attempts, 29 of which were in the last 2 years in Briles’ offense. With Burks, those plays allowed him to show off that buildup speed. That’s exactly what Hornsby has. You see how dangerous he can be with a head of steam. Late in a game, that’s not a guy I would sign up to tackle/chase down.

That approach would take total buy-in. Hornsby and Jefferson, who would be sacrificing reps (and numbers) in semi-competitive games, would both need to be on board. The Arkansas offensive line would have to flip that switch. That Arkansas backfield with the 3-headed attack of Rocket Sanders, Dominique Johnson and A.J. Green would have to understand that Hornsby would potentially eat into their already divided workload.

We would also need to see buy-in from the coaching staff. If Hornsby were to enter a 14-point game with 9 minutes left and a pair of 3-and-outs leads to a blown lead, that strategy would be an easy thing to blame. You’d need to be willing to take it on the chin for that potential criticism and trust that the good (preserving Jefferson and keeping a dynamic player involved in the offense) would outweigh the bad.

Easier said than done? For sure.

There’s a fine line that the Arkansas coaching staff is toeing with Hornsby. Clearly, he wants a bigger role. There’s no guarantee he follows in the footsteps of someone like Joyner, who switched positions multiple times and even stuck around with a coaching staff change at South Carolina. Hornsby might have a real position change, or he might just have an expanded role at quarterback.

Either way, Arkansas has some things to figure out this summer. Finding a home for Hornsby should be near the top of the list.

If that doesn’t happen, well, we already know that Hornsby has the wheels to leave town in a hurry.