The One Thing Petrino Demands of All His Starting QBs + Tidbits from Practice No. 9

Ryan Mallett, Taylen Green, Arkansas football
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Craven Whitlow

FAYETTEVILLE — He didn’t come out and explicitly say it, but Bobby Petrino essentially declared Taylen Green as Arkansas’ starting quarterback Tuesday morning.

For anyone who’s watched a second of the Razorbacks’ first nine practices this spring, that’s not particularly surprising. In fact, he was probably the favorite going into spring ball because he was the hand-picked quarterback by Petrino when he was hired to run Sam Pittman’s offense.

“Taylen has kind of been the guy that works with the ones,” Petrino said. “He’s earned that himself from the minute he got here to how he’s conducted his business, how he leads, how he studies. … I think there’s a good competition for who’s going to be No. 2.”

The three remaining scholarship quarterbacks — Malachi Singleton, Jacolby Criswell and KJ Jackson — are possibilities to win the backup job, with Singleton and Criswell taking most of the second-team reps, but that’s all that’s up for grabs.

Green appears to have the starting job locked down, as he’s taken virtually every snap with the first-team offense this spring. The Boise State transfer still has room for improvement, but he does possess the one thing Petrino requires from the position.

The guy who has coached quarterbacks ranging from pocket passers like Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson at Arkansas to dynamic dual-threats like Lamar Jackson at Louisville and – to a lesser extent – Jason Shelley at Missouri State, sees a mental trait that connects them all.

“The thing I was most impressed (with) was when I was talking to (Green), I could see him picturing the plays and the formations and everything in his mind and his ability to do that,” Petrino said. “I’ve always felt that’s the one thing a quarterback has to be able to do.

“That’s how you get better on the sideline when you come off the field, that’s how you get better at halftime — I can say something to him and he can see it and understand what I’m talking about coverage-wise or route-wise.”

One of the main concerns with Green has been his accuracy. Playing in the Mountain West, he completed just 59.4% of his passes the last two years at Boise State.

That issue seemed to flare up in the Razorbacks’ first open scrimmage this past Saturday, as he completed only 10 of 23 passes (43.5%). That included missing several passes Petrino considered “layups.”

Petrino credited those mistakes to poor mechanics, such as dropping his hip or elbow, causing the ball to sail on him. His homework assignment involved going back and watching film of arguably the greatest quarterback in Arkansas history, who just so happened to be coached by Petrino: the late Ryan Mallett.

“He’s got to study and watch a little bit more of Ryan,” Petrino said. “Taylen’s different than everybody else. The TikTok video guys that throw it side arm and do all that, (but) this dude’s 6-6 — all he’s got to do is get up over the top, and he can complete anything.

“He’s got to understand that because you go to some of these quarterback gurus and some of the drills they do, everybody thinks they’re coaching Mahomes and he’s not Mahomes. He needs to set and get over the top and throw the ball, and when he does that, he’s going to get that percentage up.”

Whether or not he spent time the past few days watching Mallett highlights on YouTube, Green looked much better passing the ball in Tuesday’s practice. He unofficially completed 21 of 29 passes (72.4%) across the 7-on-7 and team periods.

“(The goal is) to get the muscle memory where when it’s in the heat of the battle that he’s perfect on his technique,” Petrino said. “I tell you what, I tip my hat off to him. He was working extremely hard at it today. It was really good to see.”

Here are a few other observations and takeaways from Day 9 of spring ball…

Day 9 Arkansas Spring Practice Observations

Here are a few other observations and tidbits from the Razorbacks’ ninth day of spring ball…

  • It was a rainy and cold morning in Fayetteville, so most of the practice took place inside Walker Pavillion. However, the team did move outside for a period of punt before heading back inside.
  • Tight end Ty Washington (shoulder) and linebacker Justin Logan (undisclosed) were still in green non-contact jerseys. Running back Rashod Dubinion (undisclosed) joined them in green for the first time.
  • Wide receivers Andrew Armstrong (hamstring) and Bryce Stephens (ankle) went through individual drills at the beginning of practice, but didn’t participate in the team periods. Another receiver, Jaedon Wilson (undisclosed), was limited to only working off to the side. Tight end Andreas Paaske (thumb) was able to do the team periods after being limited in the scrimmage.
  • After a 152-play live tackling scrimmage on Saturday, the Razorbacks were in shorts and “spider” pads (light padding on the shoulders opposed to full shoulder pads) on Tuesday. Because of that, they weren’t tackling.
  • In an early team run period, freshman Braylen Russell was wrapped up and after a few seconds, safety Jayden Johnson was able to strip the ball. After the play, Sam Pittman stopped practice and said it was a good effort, but “let the man run” after thudding him because they weren’t tackling and he wanted his running backs to get a look at the running angles.
  • Later in that same period, freshman defensive back Tevis Metcalf met walk-on running back Cade Fields in the flats and got thrown on his back. Defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator Marcus Woodson was right there and yelled, “This is the SEC, this ain’t high school, Tevis. Stiff arms exist!” (Side note: One of the best parts of spring ball has been getting to hear all of the coaches, especially Woodson, coach up the players during practice.)
  • Despite Pittman’s pleas to not be quite as physical as usual, due to the players not being in full pads, Jayden Johnson had a difficult time flipping the switch. He still went extremely hardl. Later in the practice, he was rewarded by jumping in front of a pass on third-and-goal for a would-be pick-six. He also had a nice pass breakup against Isaiah Sategna.
  • Even when Taylen Green completed a pass, Bobby Petrino still spent some time coaching him up. During 7-on-7, he threw a touchdown pass to Tyrone Broden at the back of the end zone, but Petrino told him he needed to throw the ball higher because his target is 6-foot-6.
  • Cornerback Jaheim Singletary primarily worked with the second-team defense on Tuesday, but he made one of the better plays when he went up with Davion Dozier and managed to break up a pass. It was a great effort play and he got a lot of kudos from the coaches and his teammates on the sideline.

  • Wide receiver Isaiah Sategna had another good day catching the ball. One of his best grabs was a tough, contested reception over the middle that moved the chains on third-and-4 in the red zone.
  • It was not the cleanest day from a penalty perspective. In a period where Arkansas practiced being backed up to its own 2-yard line, a false start immediately backed it up to the 1 before running a play. There was also a costly false start in the 2-minute drill segment.
  • In that 2-minute drill, the situation was the offense had the ball at its own 48 yard line with no timeouts and 32 seconds on the clock, needing a field goal. Here’s how it unfolded:
    • 1s: Taylen Green started things with a 17-yard completion to Tyrone Broden before an incompletion stopped the clock with 19 seconds left. He then hit Isaac TeSlaa over the middle for a 9-yard gain and immediately spiked it. That set up a 43-yard field goal, which Vito Calvaruso drilled.
    • 2s: Freshman KJ Jackson got the chance to run the show with the second-team and it went poorly. On the very first play, he failed to throw the ball away and took a sack by Anton Juncaj. He managed to complete a 25-yard pass to Davion Dozier, but time expired before he spiked the ball.
    • 3s: Jacolby Criswell had a more veteran approach, as he immediately threw a pass away when he felt pressure after initially completing a 12-yard pass to Shamar Easter on the sideline. He took a shot downfield to Easter, but freshman Ahkhari Johnson made a nice play to break it up. After the aforementioned false start, Criswell completed a 7-yard pass to walk-on running back Jezreel Bachert and time appeared to expire. However, they did try a 56-yard field goal, but this time, Calvaruso missed it wide left.
  • After those two attempts, Calvaruso looked pretty good during a field goal segment. He drilled kicks from 28, 35, 42 and 48 yards. It was not a good day for Hawaii transfer Matthew Shipley, as he missed all three of his kicks – from 36, 42 and 48 yards. It appeared Shipley had the starting placekicker job locked down earlier in the spring, but it now seems to be a legit competition.

Bobby Petrino Interview

Arkansas offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino spent about 22 minutes answering questions from reporters following Tuesday’s practice. Watch the full interview below:

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