Projecting Arkansas’ 2024 WR Room after Mbake’s Dismissal

Sam Mbake, Andrew Armstrong, Arkansas football
photo credit: Nick Wenger

Wide receiver Sam Mbake was dismissed from the Arkansas football team late in the 2023 season, Best of Arkansas Sports has confirmed. The news was first reported by HawgBeat.

It’s unknown exactly when the dismissal happened, but he last appeared on the roster in the game notes for the Auburn game. No reason was given.

A native of Kennesaw, Ga., Mbake was in his second season with the Razorbacks.

He is the second player known to leave the program, as redshirt defensive back Jaylen Lewis announced his intention to enter the transfer portal the week of the Missouri game.

Both players were members of Arkansas’ 2022 signing class. The Razorbacks signed 21 players in that class and six of them are no longer on the team.

Tight end Dax Courtney medically retired prior to his freshman season before eventually entering the transfer portal and landing at UCA. JUCO transfer defensive tackle Taylor Lewis also hit the transfer portal before the season and announced a commitment to Marshall, but was deemed ineligible this season.

Running back James Jointer Jr. announced he was leaving the team before the Missouri game last season and transferred to Liberty, while defensive back Anthony Brown transferred following the season and landed at Purdue.

Sam Mbake with Arkansas Football

A four-star recruit coming out of North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Ga., Sam Mbake was the last high school player to commit to Arkansas football in the 2022 class.

He didn’t officially visit Fayetteville until December and then committed a couple weeks later on the first day of the early signing period. He turned down a slew of offers from Power Five schools, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Penn State, USC and several others.

Even though he didn’t play much on offense, Mbake carved out a role for himself on special teams. He played 72 total snaps across three different units — kickoff coverage (41), punt return (17) and punt coverage (14). Those snaps came in nine games, meaning he burned his redshirt eligibility.

It wasn’t until the Liberty Bowl that Mbake got on the field on offense, but that was for only eight snaps. His most notable contribution to the team might have been earlier in the season, when he briefly moved to defense when numerous injuries left the Razorbacks extremely thin in the secondary.

Fellow 2022 signee Quincey McAdoo ended up making a similar switch and burst onto the scene as a cornerback late in the season, doing enough to earn Freshman All-SEC honors. That allowed Mbake to move back to wide receiver.

That appeared to be a great move for Mbake because he made a lot of plays during spring ball and looked primed to have a breakout sophomore campaign as part of the two-deep at wide receiver, if not as a starter.

“He’s going to be able to help us,” Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman said early in fall camp. “Mbake is a wonderful person and he plays 90 mph all the time and it’s important to him. He has improved in every aspect of his game — speed, strength, awareness of what he’s doing. Mbake will be on the field as much as anybody this year.”

Unfortunately, that never came to fruition because he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Razorbacks’ first scrimmage of fall.

Assuming he ultimately enters the transfer portal, Mbake will have three years of eligibility at his next school because he redshirted this year after playing as a true freshman.

Looking at Hogs’ 2024 WR Room

This is the second straight year the Razorbacks have lost a projected contributor at wide receiver. Last season, Ketron Jackson Jr. surprisingly hit the transfer portal following the 2022 regular season and ended up at Baylor.

Sam Mbake was far less experienced than Jackson, but listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, he was viewed as a potential starter before getting hurt and was likely to be in the mix in 2024.

With that no longer the case, the focus now shifts to three looming decisions regarding a super senior season. Andrew Armstrong, Isaac TeSlaa and Tyrone Broden were each listed as seniors this year, but are eligible to return because of the eligibility relief granted by the NCAA in response to the pandemic.

They accounted for 28 of the Razorbacks’ 32 wide receiver starts this season and nearly three-quarters (74.6%, to be exact) of their total wide receiver snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

The most notable of that trio is Armstrong, as he was Arkansas’ leading receiver this season with 56 receptions for 764 yards and five touchdowns. Considering his success, he could opt to try his hand at the NFL. 

Pittman, though, has publicly said they’d love to have Armstrong back for another year and he could perhaps benefit from a second season in the SEC after beginning his career at Texas A&M-Commerce.

Like Armstrong, TeSlaa started all 12 games. The Division II transfer from Hillsdale College was second on the team with 34 receptions, but those went for only 351 yards — 10.3 yards per reception — and two touchdowns.

Broden, a transfer from Bowling Green, made only four starts, but played the third-most snaps among Arkansas’ receivers and caught 15 passes for 109 yards and three touchdowns. One of those scores was the game-winner in the Razorbacks’ overtime win at Florida.

Barring transfers, Arkansas could also return the two players who accounted for the other four wide receiver starts: Jaedon Wilson (3) and Isaiah Sategna (1).

Wilson earned a lot of praise from Pittman during fall camp and also took a screen 65 yards to the house on the second play of the season against Western Carolina, but he was inconsistent and managed only 15 catches for 199 yards and two scores in 2023.

Sategna showed flashes of his electric speed as a return man this year, but it wasn’t until after the firing of offensive coordinator that he really got much of a chance on offense. He played 136 offensive snaps over the final four games of the season after getting only 106 snaps the first eight games. That resulted in him finishing with 15 receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

Now that Sam Mbake has left, the most promising receiver among those with very limited experience is freshman Davion Dozier, who appeared in only three games to preserve his redshirt, but did catch a touchdown against Western Carolina. However, he drew headlines for seemingly expressing interest in transferring to Missouri following the regular-season finale. Dozier has since tweeted a Razorback emoji, apparently signifying his loyalty to Arkansas.

There was some talk during the spring about Quincey McAdoo potentially playing both ways, but that was before his serious car accident that caused him to miss the 2023 season. If he’s able to return, it’d make sense for him to just stick to defense as the cornerback opposite of Jaylon Braxton.

The Razorbacks also have a pair of talented wide receivers committed in the 2024 class in four-star Ashton Bethel-Roman from Texas and in-state three-star CJ Brown from Bentonville. Another in-state prospect, Courtney Crutchfield from Pine Bluff, was previously committed, but the top-100 recruit backed off his pledge and is currently uncommitted.

However, given the Razorbacks’ struggles to get open at times this season, they may look to the transfer portal for more help, just as they have the last two offseasons.

***

More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…

Facebook Comments