Bobby Petrino’s first unit as the Arkansas offensive coordinator is starting to come into focus after a steady trickle of news since last Friday, as wide receivers Andrew Armstrong and Isaac TeSlaa announced their return for 2024 and quarterback Taylen Green committed out of the transfer portal.
The receiver tandem joined the Razorbacks from lower levels of college football via the transfer portal last offseason and then finished first and second on the team, respectively, in receiving this year.
Armstrong revealed his decision Friday afternoon with a graphic Arkansas football fans have come to expect from players leaving for the transfer portal or NFL Draft, but he flipped the script at the end of his message.
“This year wasn’t what any of us expected,” Armstrong wrote. “So I feel like it’s only right for me to come back to Fayetteville and finish my college career here.”
TeSlaa opted for a much simpler method, using a GIF of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in The Terminator saying, “I’ll be back.”
They’ll both be super seniors in 2024, taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to all players active in the pandemic-altered 2020 season.
Arkansas actually had 18 scholarship seniors on the roster this past season who could return, with Armstrong and TeSlaa being the first to announce their plans to do so. Two more — defensive tackle Taurean Carter and defensive back Malik Chavis — have entered the transfer portal to use their extra year elsewhere.
It’s also highly likely that center Beaux Limmer and cornerback Dwight McGlothern are heading to the NFL, as both of them have accepted invitations to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl. That would leave 12 undecided or unannounced potential super seniors for the Razorbacks, with quarterback KJ Jefferson being the most notable.
Jefferson’s pending decision to stay or leave may be influenced by Monday’s commitment of Green, who spent the last three years at Boise State before hitting the portal.
Arkansas Lands Taylen Green from Boise State
The Razorbacks apparently moved quickly to identify Taylen Green as their desired quarterback out of the transfer portal.
Not long after his announcement, reports surfaced that Arkansas would be a potential landing spot for the Broncos’ two-year starter. Sure enough, he was in Fayetteville for an official visit this weekend and he committed a day later.
It’s a solid pickup for the Razorbacks, who were always going to target a transfer quarterback regardless of KJ Jefferson’s decision.
Green appeared in 28 games during his Boise State career, completing 59.4% of his passes for 3,794 yards, 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He added another 1,026 yards and 19 scores on 164 carries, giving him a 6.3-yard average on the ground.
Even if Jefferson moves on, which seems to be the most likely outcome at this point, Green will have some competition to win the starting job at Arkansas.
He’ll join a quarterback room that features a pair of former four-star recruits in Jacolby Criswell and Malachi Singleton. Criswell was the backup in 2023 and appeared in a handful of games after transferring in from North Carolina, while Singleton redshirted as a true freshman.
Armstrong, TeSlaa in 2023
Even though they came from the FCS and Division II ranks, respectively, Andrew Armstrong and Isaac TeSlaa were recruited by slew of Power Five programs when they hit the transfer portal.
Armstrong actually jumped on board first. He was coming off a season in which he caught 62 passes for 1,020 yards and 13 touchdowns in 11 games. It was his first year playing at the FCS level, as Texas A&M-Commerce was actually a Division II program when he signed there out of high school.
That earned him 17 FBS offers and he ultimately chose the Razorbacks over Missouri, canceling a visit to the latter after his official visit to Fayetteville.
TeSlaa followed suit about a month later, picking Arkansas from a long list of Power Five offers that included Colorado, Iowa, Iowa State and Purdue, all of which he also officially visited before making his decision.
He generated that interest despite playing at Hillsdale College, a small DII school in Michigan. However, his highlights were impressive, as he racked up 1,325 yards and 13 touchdowns on 68 receptions in just 11 games.
Upon arriving in Fayetteville, both of them were slotted behind returning receivers to start spring ball, but they quickly asserted themselves as starters.
They eventually started all 12 games during the season and finished first and second on the team in receiving — albeit with a large gap between them.
Armstrong emerged as KJ Jefferson’s go-to target and hauled in 56 passes for 764 yards and five touchdowns, leading the Razorbacks in all three categories. He also tied for eighth in receptions and tied for 10th in receiving yards in the SEC.
TeSlaa had 34 catches, but they went for only 351 yards — a 10.3-yard average — and two touchdowns. After a solid start to the year, his production dipped midseason before ticking back up following offensive coordinator Dan Enos’ firing.
What it Means for Arkansas Football’s WR Corps
Without the return of at least Andrew Armstrong and Isaac TeSlaa as super seniors, the wide receiver room for Arkansas football was looking pretty thin for 2024.
The Razorbacks are still waiting on a decision from Tyrone Broden, another potential super senior, but without him, they’re now projected to have eight wide receivers on scholarship.
A return of Broden and the re-commitment of Courtney Crutchfield, the No. 1 player in the state who backed off his pledge last month, would increase that number if either or both happen.
Even if neither do, the return of Armstrong is clearly the best news for Arkansas’ offense since Bobby Petrino was announced as the new offensive coordinator.
He is a proven weapon for whom Petrino can scheme up plays — which was probably a factor in him deciding to come back instead of trying his hand at the NFL.
Over 17 seasons as a college head coach and his lone year as Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator, the leading pass catcher in Petrino’s system has averaged about 59 receptions for 917 yards and six touchdowns in a full season.
That doesn’t even take into account the years in which he didn’t have a receiver as proven as Armstrong. It’s not too much of a stretch to think he could put together just the fifth 1,000-yard receiving season in school history — much like Missouri State’s Ty Scott (2021), Arkansas’ Jarius Wright (2011) and Louisville’s Harry Douglas (2006) and J.R. Russell (2003) did in Petrino’s offense.
It will also be interesting to see how TeSlaa may be used next season. His 10.3 yards per reception this season were far from awe-inspiring and he struggled to create separation at times, but not only will he have a year of experience in the SEC under his belt in 2024, but Petrino can probably find ways to utilize his speed and athleticism better than Enos.
Of course, the same could be said of Isaiah Sategna, as the speedster had only 15 receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns despite flashing his potential in practice and throughout the season.
The Razorbacks will also presumably return Jaedon Wilson, Davion Dozier and Dazmin James back, plus add four-star recruit Ashton Bethel-Roman and in-state standout CJ Brown. Those wideouts, along with major pass-catching threats in tight ends Luke Hasz and Ty Washington, should give plenty of options to the future starting quarterback whether that be Taylen Green, Jacolby Criswell, KJ Jefferson or perhaps even someone else.
A few receivers in the transfer portal have been offered by Arkansas, as well.
For more on Taylen Green go here:
More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…