Two Razorback Quarterbacks Exceed 73% Completion Rate on Day 2

Taylen Green, Malachi Singleton, Jacolby Criswell, Arkansas football
photo credit: Craven Whitlow

FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman tried selling a five-man quarterback competition earlier in the week, but a clear pecking order has emerged at Arkansas just two days into spring ball.

Boise State transfer Taylen Green has taken every first-team rep in 7-on-7 and team periods during the Razorbacks’ first two practices, which have been opened in their entirety to the media.

Interestingly, redshirt freshman Malachi Singleton has taken a majority of the second-team reps and Jacolby Criswell, last year’s backup, getting most of his work with the third team. True freshman KJ Jackson has rotated in with the second and third units, with walk-ons Austin Ledbetter and Rykar Acebo getting limited action in 7-on-7.

“I think they’re battling in there,” Pittman said. “I like where they’re at. They like each other. They’re competing hard against each other.

“The one thing I’m seeing a little bit more out of them this year is they all seem to possess really good leadership qualities and take ownership of their own mistakes. But yet have really good leadership skills. That’s what you’ve got to have at the quarterback position.”

It’s not necessarily a surprise that Green has emerged as the starter, especially considering he was the hand-picked quarterback out of the transfer portal by offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino and was widely viewed as the favorite to win the job, but it may be a bit surprising that it’s happened so quickly.

Pittman has recently been hesitant to immediately slot transfers in as starters because he said it had rubbed some players the wrong way a few years ago, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what happened with Green. Even though there have been only two official practices this spring, the Razorbacks have seen him in walk-throughs the NCAA now allows leading up to spring ball.

“We’ve seen some out of him before, with the walks and all this kind of stuff and meeting time he puts in and all that kind of stuff,” Pittman said. “So it was different than throwing a guy in at the with the 1s the first day of practice because of the rules have allowed us to do more before practice starts.”

Despite being 6-foot-6 and 223 pounds, Green is a true dual-threat quarterback who ran for more than 1,000 yards the last two years at Boise State.

The Razorbacks haven’t put on full pads yet and quarterbacks are off limits even when they finally do, but that doesn’t mean he can’t show off that skillset in practice. Defensive end Landon Jackson didn’t hesitate when asked about the challenges of facing Green, immediately citing his speed.

“That dude can move,” Jackson said. “He has a great arm, but I feel like he really can dominate you with running the ball. I had him out-leveraged, and he’ll still pull it and still get outside. When it comes down to it, if he really needs to, he’s going to use his speed and get those yards.”

When he met with reporters following Friday’s practice, Pittman said there weren’t any plans to rotate other quarterbacks with the first-team offense, but that could change.

“That’ll be something after today’s practice, we’ll meet this afternoon after we all get the tape watched,” Pittman said. “I’ll meet with the offense about 4:20 today, assuming all the recruiting will allow us to get to that point, but then we’ll decide what we do there.”

Best of Arkansas Sports doesn’t have the advantage of watching film, but it did diligently chart every throw by the quarterbacks during 7-on-7 and team periods Friday.

Green and Singleton finished an identical 14 of 19 passing (73.7%), while Criswell was 7 of 12 (58.3%) and Jackson was 6 of 12 (50%).

The first two official interceptions of spring happened Friday, too, with Jackson throwing both of them. It’s worth noting, though, that Singleton was picked off in Thursday’s 2-minute drill only for it to be wiped out by a questionable pass interference penalty. He was also nearly picked off in a team period Thursday, but the defender couldn’t hang on to it and the ball ended up in Var’keyes Gumms’ hands for a completion.

However, Singleton made one of the best throws of the day, too, hitting Dazmin James in stride on a deep ball down the sideline on the final play of the team period. During the 7-on-7 portion, he made a similar throw to walk-on Walker Catsavis.

Even though he didn’t have as high of a completion percentage, Criswell did have a couple of “wow” throws. He dropped a dime to Rashod Dubinion running a wheel route and also made a great throw on the run, threading the needle for a completion to CJ Brown.

Green’s best throws of the day were on a pair of corner routes by Luke Hasz. As you can see below, he put the ball on the money both times, giving him an opportunity for yards after the catch.

Day 2 Spring Practice Observations

Here are a few other observations and tidbits from the Razorbacks’ second day of spring ball, which was again inside Walker Pavilion because of rainy weather…

  • As we wrote after Day 1, Tyrone Broden still seems to have good chemistry with Taylen Green, but Andrew Armstrong had a really impressive day catching the ball Friday and is another go-to option. He made one catch that looked like it’d be a for sure incompletion, but dove and snagged it only a few inches off the ground. There was another more routine catch he made in 7-on-7 that prompted Pittman to shout praise from across the field because he caught it and immediately ran up the field full speed, despite the defense not trying to tackle him. Pittman was excited with how he finished the rep.

  • Now in his second year at Arkansas, wide receiver Isaac TeSlaa has a reputation for having great hands and a big catch radius, but his biggest struggle last season was creating separation. It’s still early, but that seems to still be the case. He made a few more tough grabs Friday, but that’s also because he hasn’t been getting super open.

  • Redshirt freshman RJ Johnson had a nice day defensively, breaking up a pass during 7-on-7 and then jumping a route by Bryce Stephens for an interception during a team period. True freshman Tevis Metcalf snagged the other interception, both of which were thrown by KJ Jackson. Malachi Singleton’s near interception was by Jayden Johnson, who failed to secure it and ended up allowing a reception because of it.

  • Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson also had a solid day, breaking up a couple of passes – one intended for Armstrong in the 1-on-1 period and then another during 7-on-7. Speaking of the 1-on-1 period, it felt like the defensive backs got the better of the receivers Friday. Bobby Petrino’s influence on the offense is already pretty obvious. It’s only been two days, but it’s already been far more creative than anything we saw last year. He dialed up a reverse for Dazmin James to open one team period and the design of his run plays led to some big holes.

  • Taylen Green has been praised by Pittman and teammates for his leadership and that was evident early in Friday’s practice when he overthrew Armstrong on a go route on the first 1-on-1 rep. He jogged all the way over to the sideline to dab him up and, presumably, say “my bad.”

That leadership also comes through clear and loud at the end of the below clip, in which he coaxes offensive lineman Josh Street to show off his velvety pipes:

  • The offensive tackles rotated some on Day 1, but we didn’t notice them rotate at all Friday. The two transfers – Keyshawn Blackstock and Fernando Carmona – were the first-team right and left tackles, respectively.

  • Third-team center Tim Dawn, an Arkansas native who began his career at Baylor, had a tough day snapping the ball. He had multiple high snaps in a row at one point during a team period.

  • The Razorbacks were slated to end practice with a 2-minute drill again, but Pittman scrapped it because Thursday’s practice ran a few minutes long and he wanted to end Friday’s a few minutes early to make up for it.

Arkansas Football Injury Report

  • WR Jaedon Wilson (hamstring): Pulled his hamstring late in practice. Didn’t appear too serious.
  • LB Justin Logan (undisclosed): Still in a green non-contact jersey Friday morning, the second day in a row.
  • TE Ty Washington (shoulder): Still recovering from surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder suffered against Florida. Pittman is hopeful he can catch some passes after spring break, but they’re going to be careful with him.
  • OL Amaury Wiggins (knee): Had some cartilage trimmed and is expected to miss at least the first two days of spring ball. Pittman said he was able to do some individual drills Friday, but hopefully he can return more fully by Sunday for practice No. 3.
  • OL Zuri Madison (ACL): Tore his ACL in a scooter accident a few days before spring ball. It’s likely to be a season-ending injury, but he could potentially get ready for a bowl game. However, as a true freshman on the offensive line, he was probably a redshirt candidate anyways.

Arkansas Football Unofficial Depth Chart

This is how the Razorbacks lined up during their “fastball starts” at the beginning of the practice. In this period, the first-, second- and third-team offense runs four plays apiece against the first-, second- and third-team defense, respectively.

Players may have rotated and lined up differently in later team periods.

POSFirstSecondThird
QBTaylen GreenMalachi SingletonJacolby Criswell
RBJa’Quinden JacksonIsaiah AugustaveDominique Johnson
TELuke HaszAndreas PaaskeShamar Easter
WRTyrone BrodenCJ BrownDazmin James
WRIsaiah Sategna*Var’keyes Gumms (TE)Bryce Stephens
WRAndrew ArmstrongIsaac TeSlaaWalker Catsavis
LTFernando CarmonaE’Marion HarrisAaron Smith
LGPatrick KutasJosh StreetLuke Brown
CAddison NicholsBrooks EdmonsonTim Dawn
RGJoshua BraunKobe BranhamParis Patterson
RTKeyshawn BlackstockTy’Kieast CrawfordTommy Varhall
*The second unit lined up in 12 personnel, meaning there were two tight ends on the field.

Changes… 

  • At running back, Rashod Dubinion didn’t participate in this period, allowing Ja’Quinden Jackson and Isaiah Augustave to move up to first- and second-team running back, respectively. Dominique Johnson ran with the third unit. This, by the way, was Jimmy Smith’s last day coaching the unit as he has resigned and is reportedly headed for TCU. Check out some potential RB coach replacements here.

  • After not participating in the period on Thursday, Isaiah Sategna ran with the first unit Friday, replacing Jaedon Wilson. On the second unit, CJ Brown replaced Davion Dozier. Walk-on Walker Catsavis got reps with the third team because Brown moved up to the second team.

  • Josh Street and Luke Brown flipped, with Street working as the second-team left guard and Brown working with the 3s. The same thing happened at right guard, with Paris Patterson and Kobe Branham flipping.
POSFirstSecondThird
DELandon JacksonQuincy Rhodes Jr.Charlie Collins
DTCameron BallKeivie RoseKaleb James
DTEric GregoryIan GeffrardKyle Thompson
DENico DavillierAnton JuncajKavion Henderson
LBBrad SpenceAlex SanfordBrooks Both
LBXavian Sorey Jr.Carson DeanKaden Henley
NBLorando JohnsonDoneiko SlaughterTevis Metcalf
CBJaheim SingletaryKee’yon StewartSelman Bridges
SJayden JohnsonTJ MetcalfRJ Johnson
SHudson ClarkMiguel MitchellAhkhari Johnson
CBJaylon BraxtonMarquise RobinsonJaden Allen

Changes…

  • The defensive line and linebackers were exactly the same as they were on Thursday.

  • The cornerback depth remained the same, but there were some changes at nickel and safety. After taking reps at safety Thursday, Doneiko Slaughter was the second-team nickel on Friday. That bumped Tevis Metcalf down to third team. Filling his spot as the second-team safety was Miguel Mitchell, who didn’t participate in the period Thursday.

Sam Pittman Interview

Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman met with reporters following Friday’s practice. Here’s the full interview:

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Did you miss our practice report from Day 1 of spring ball? Check it out here:

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More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…

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