Taylen Green’s Worst Passing Day Yet Shows Just How Crucial Armstrong, Wilson Are Becoming

Taylen Green
Craven Whitlow

FAYETTEVILLE — The fans who got up early and made it out to Razorback Stadium were probably pretty excited with their first glimpse of the new-look Arkansas offense Saturday morning.

With new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino calling the plays, the first unit put together a couple of long drives against the starting defense that ended with touchdowns. It didn’t last forever, though, as the defense battled back and may have gotten the better of the offense in the 152-play, live-tackling scrimmage.

In fact, the final non-special teams play of the day ended with Hudson Clark coming down with an interception of Taylen Green to cap a two-minute drill.

“It’s not about how you start,” cornerback Jaylon Braxton said. “Offense came out with a hot start, but we finished the practice and Hud sealed it with a pick. So I say we got the dub.”

Green didn’t have the best day, unofficially completing only 10 of 23 passes for 156 yards, but he did make a couple of great throws. It started with a perfectly placed ball to Luke Hasz, fitting the pass into a window for a 24-yard touchdown that capped a 75-yard drive.

The next possession covered 65 yards, with most of the damage done on the ground. Utah transfer Ja’Quinden Jackson — who unofficially had 41 yards on nine carries — finished it off by breaking a tackle on his way to scoring on a 10-yard touchdown run after a 12-yard gain.

On the whole, it was clear Green missed the injured Andrew Armstrong and Jaedon Wilson, two of his top targets so far in spring camp. Armstrong (hamstring) and Wilson (undisclosed) did not dress out for the scrimmage, while reserve receiver Bryce Stephens was still out, too.

Still, even though he struggled in the pass game, Green flashed on the ground, scrambling for 15 yards and keeping it for 7 yards on an option play. Later in the scrimmage, he managed to turn the corner and pick up 8 yards with his speed.

With sacks factored in, Green finished with 30 yards on six carries, but — as with all of the quarterbacks — he was in a black non-contact jersey and wasn’t tackled. However, he’s shown enough with his legs that the defense knows he’s a threat to run.

“He’s a good quarterback,” Braxton said. “He can make the good throws out there. Elusive runner. I’m ready to see him in a game where he can actually get tackled and break away from the defense.”

After those touchdown drives, the defense locked in and notched three straight three-and-outs, highlighted by a Cam Ball sack.

When the offense finally got it going again, Green found Hasz over the middle for a 16-yard pick up and then hit Isaiah Sategna in stride after he beat Florida transfer Miguel Mitchell deep, resulting in a 33-yard touchdown.

It was a good day for Sategna, who unofficially led the scrimmage in both receptions (5) and receiving yards (83). For the most part, that’s how things have gone through eight practices this spring for the Fayetteville High alum who’s positioning himself to start in the slot.

“I feel like he has a natural feel for the game,” Green said. “Just natural pockets and zones. Different routes and options that he has. When they play him man, you already know the speed that he has. The separation that he can create, it’s definitely a matchup that we like.”

Another standout performer so far this spring, albeit mostly on the second-team offense, has been tight end Var’keyes Gumms. He was the second-leading pass catcher Saturday, grabbing four passes for 45 yards — including one really tough grab with a defender all over him to move the sticks on fourth down.

“Var’keyes had a crazy catch today,” Green said. “Like, a dude on his back, and just seeing that, it builds confidence in us. It builds trust in us that even if it seems like he’s covered, if you put it in the right spot, he’s going to come down with it.”

Speaking of dudes on the back, check out this snag by Tyrone Broden. It stood out as the best catch of the day:

In some situational work, the offense moved the chains three times before the defense stepped up and made some stops. Braxton had a nice pass breakup on a third-down play and Nico Davillier and TJ Metcalf met Jackson in the backfield for a tackle for loss on fourth-and-2.

The first-team defense also stopped the first-team offense in both of the red zone series, which started at the 18- and 8-yard lines, as well as in the get-the-ball-back segment and the two-minute drill.

“It’s not going to be perfection, but that’s our standard,” Green said. “That’s what we’re reaching (for). We started out fast, but we need to finish. We’ve got to be consistent with that.

“We’re going to look at the film and just look at the little details because I feel like there was nothing that the defense did that stopped us. It was just us making the mistakes. We’ve just got to get that cleaned up in the film room and come back next practice and correct them.”

Other Arkansas Football Scrimmage Observations

Here are a few other quick takeaways from what we saw in Saturday’s scrimmage…

  • Defensive end Anton Juncaj, the transfer from Albany, has been praised for his pass rushing abilities, but is said to need work defending the run. In the scrimmage, though, he got in the backfield a couple of times to blow up runs. One of those ended a red zone possession inside the 10-yard line.

  • It came against the third-team offensive line, but redshirt freshman Kaleb James had a really nice sequence in the red zone, notching a tackle for loss and sack on consecutive plays to almost single-handedly win the series for the defense.

  • Had it not been for an ineligible man downfield penalty, Isaiah Sategna would have finished with more than 100 receiving yards because the flag wiped out a long completion that also would have moved the chains.

  • On defense, safeties Miguel Mitchell and Doneiko Slaughter each got some run with the first unit. Hudson Clark split his time between safety and nickel, with his interception coming as a safety.

  • Snaxx Johnson dropped what would have been an interception against Green that would have been a pick-six if he had hung on to it. Braxton also nearly nearly intercepted a Green pass in the end zone, but dropped it.

  • Wide receiver Davion Dozier has made arguably the most impressive catches this spring, but didn’t have a great scrimmage. He dropped a couple of passes and also couldn’t hang on to a deep ball down the sideline. It would have been a great play, so it wasn’t a drop, but it’s a play like we’ve seen him make this spring.

  • It’s worth noting that Malachi Singleton and Jacolby Criswell split the second-team reps and KJ Jackson took all of the third-team snaps. Those three and Green were the only four quarterbacks who played in the scrimmage. Walk-ons Austin Ledbetter and Rykar Acebo didn’t get any action.

  • Freshman running back Braylen Russell is a load to bring down. He trucked at least one defender, scored a short-yardage touchdown and also showcased an ability to catch passes out of the backfield. He looks like a guy who could help this year.

  • Offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino has been pretty chill this spring, especially considering how he was as the head coach, but he got fired up a few times during the scrimmage.

  • The scrimmage ended with a 53-yard field goal attempt. Vito Calvaruso made the first one, but Pittman called a timeout before the snap to ice him. It ended up working because his second attempt was wide right. Earlier in the scrimmage Calvaruso missed a 41-yarder wide right and made a 31-yarder.

  • Hawaii transfer Matthew Shipley also didn’t have a great day kicking the ball, as he missed field goals from 49 (wide right) and 30 (off the left upright) yards. He bounced back by making 43- and 31-yarders later in the scrimmage.

Unofficial Scrimmage Stats

Here are the complete statistics from Saturday’s scrimmage, as compiled by the media. Keep in mind that these are all very unofficial.

Passing

  • Taylen Green: 10 for 23, 156 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
  • Malachi Singleton: 11 for 15, 96 yards
  • Jacolby Criswell: 8 for 15, 57 yards
  • KJ Jackson: 8 for 11, 70 yards

Rushing (includes sack yards)

  • Rashod Dubinion: 15 carries, 64 yards
  • Ja’Quinden Jackson: 9 carries, 41 yards, TD
  • Isaiah Augustave: 10 carries, 26 yards
  • Braylen Russell: 7 carries, 40 yards, TD
  • Dominique Johnson: 4 carries, 26 yards, TD
  • Taylen Green: 6 carries, 30 yards
  • Malachi Singleton: 8 carries, 18 yards
  • KJ Jackson: 5 carries, minus-4 yards
  • Jacolby Criswell: 2 carries, minus-1 yard
  • Jezreel Bachert: 3 carries, 2 yards
  • Emmanuel Crawford: 1 carry, 4 yards

Receiving

  • Isaiah Sategna: 5 receptions, 83 yards, TD
  • Var’keyes Gumms: 4 receptions, 45 yards
  • CJ Brown: 4 receptions, 38 yards
  • Isaac TeSlaa: 1 reception, 7 yards
  • Isaiah Augustave: 3 receptions, 13 yards
  • Jordan Anthony: 3 receptions, 23 yards
  • Walker Castavis: 2 receptions, 12 yards
  • Dazmin James: 2 receptions, 13 yards
  • Tyrone Broden: 2 receptions, 34 yards
  • Kamron Bibby: 2 receptions, 17 yards
  • Emmanuel Crawford: 1 reception, 6 yards
  • Luke Buchanan: 1 reception, 17 yards
  • Braylen Russell: 4 receptions, 28 yards
  • Luke Hasz: 2 receptions, 40 yards, TD
  • Ja’Quinden Jackson: 1 reception, 3 yards

Tackles (3 or more)

  • Xavian Sorey: 9
  • Cam Ball: 7
  • Carson Dean: 7
  • TJ Metcalf: 7
  • Miguel Mitchell: 6
  • Brad Spence: 6
  • Nico Davillier: 5
  • RJ Johnson: 5
  • Kaden Henley: 5
  • Anton Juncaj: 4
  • Juju Pope: 4
  • Jaheim Singletary: 4
  • Doneiko Slaughter: 4
  • Brooks Yurachek: 4
  • Jaden Allen: 3
  • Selman Bridges: 3
  • Hudson Clark: 3
  • Jayden Johnson: 3
  • Keivie Rose: 3
  • Alex Sanford: 3

Tackles For Loss (does not include sacks)

  • Anton Juncaj: 2 (5 yards)
  • John Paul Pickens: 1 (5 yards)
  • Brooks Both: 1 (4 yards)
  • Brad Spence: 1 (2 yards)
  • Kaleb James 1 (2 yards)
  • Donovan Whitten: 1 (1 yard)
  • Miguel Mitchell: 1 (1 yard)
  • Jaden Allen: 0.5 (1 yard)
  • Kaden Henley: 0.5 (1 yard)

Sacks

  • Cam Ball: 1.5 (7 yards)
  • Kaleb James: 1.5 (6 yards)
  • Kyle Thompson: 1 (8 yards)
  • Alex Sanford: 1 (7 yards)
  • Landon Jackson: 0.5 (2 yards)

Interceptions

  • Hudson Clark: 1 (0 yards)

Pass Breakups

  • Jaylon Braxton: 2
  • Hudson Clark: 1
  • Snaxx Johnson: 1
  • Jaheim Singletary: 1
  • Quincy Rhodes: 1

Fumble Recoveries

  • Quincy Rhodes: 1
  • Cam Ball: 1

Forced Fumbles

  • Landon Jackson: 1

Quarterback Hurries

  • Brad Spence: 1
  • Kavion Henderson: 1
  • Keivie Rose: 1

Arkansas Football Interviews

Following the scrimmage, reporters got to talk to a trio of quarterbacks – Taylen Green, Malachi Singleton and Jacolby Criswell – as well as linebacker Xavian Sorey Jr. and cornerback Jaylon Braxton. Here are those interviews:

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