How Arkansas’ Top-End Speed Now Stacks Up Against That of Alabama, LSU Football Programs

Jordan Anthony, Chris Hilton Jr., Arkansas football, LSU football, Alabama football, Arkansas track
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics/Robert Black / LSU Athletics

Arkansas’ offense had so many problems in 2023 that it’s hard to know where to begin. But one consistent complaint was that the offense looked slow.

How much of that was due to Dan Enos’ lumbering scheme and how much of it was due to a lack of high-end speed is worth debating, but there’s no question that Arkansas’ wide receivers struggled to generate separation. Despite solid accuracy numbers, KJ Jefferson had a hard time connecting with receivers down the field because they simply were not open.

New offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino needs receivers to get separation. His offense tries to generate yards after the catch by hitting receivers on the move. That’s a big difference from what we saw in 2023, when the Hogs tried to use bigger receivers who usually tried to face their quarterback to present a target. But getting YAC is almost impossible if receivers don’t separate from their defenders.

Arkansas Football’s Need for Speed

Speed has been a theme of Arkansas’ portal additions at the wide receiver position. Just how does Arkansas’ new room stack up against the rest of the SEC? A survey of reported 40-yard, 100-meter and 200-meter times for the fastest players across the SEC indicates that Arkansas football’s fastest Razorbacks can now stack up with just about anybody.

Before getting into that, let’s start by noting that Arkansas is returning almost all of its receiving room from 2023. Andrew Armstrong and Isaac TeSlaa were the clear top-two choices on the roster, and they’ll both be back. Armstrong has been clocked at a 4.53 40, and TeSlaa has an unofficial 4.52 time. As we’ll see soon, those times aren’t guarantees of failure, but they are certainly on the slower end of SEC starters. 

For example, Petrino was at Texas A&M last year, and his top two receivers were Ainias Smith and Evan Stewart, who have been recorded at 4.41 and 4.33, respectively. Or take Alabama, whose top two targets were Jermaine Burton (4.43) and Isaiah Bond (4.44), and Bond is an elite sprinter in the 200-meter, with a recorded time of 21.05. Missouri’s breakout this season was aided by the star power of Luther Burden, who owns a 4.41 time and impressive physicality in the open field.

Guys with times higher than 4.5 or so can still make it as possession-type receivers, and TeSlaa and Armstrong certainly fit that mold. Both are tall, over 200 pounds and both showed good ability to make receptions in traffic in 2023. But Arkansas lacked a field-stretcher whose speed could force safeties back. 

They also didn’t have a shifty tackle-breaker who could take a short reception and turn it into a huge gain with his speed and quickness. There was hope that Isaiah Sategna could become that, but we saw only flashes in 2023. He seems like a guy that could thrive in Petrino’s offense. There’s also Dazmin James, a late addition to the 2023 team who has run a 4.29 40-yard dash. James didn’t see the field in 2023, but if the Hogs need speed, he’s got it in spades.

Arkansas’ new additions, Jordan Anthony and Krosse Johnson, are very fast.

Anthony spent 2023 at Texas A&M under Petrino and started his career at Kentucky in 2022. He’s got a personal best 40 time of 4.27 seconds, which – if you didn’t already know – is incredible. Not only is the Mississippi native considered the second-fastest returning player in college football by 247Sports, but he’s also a blazing track star who is already making his mark on the University of Arkansas track and field squad. 

In fact, after just a couple months on campus, he’s notched two of the program’s top dozen 60 meter times:

6.56Kenzo Cotton2016
6.59Kenzo Cotton2018
6.59Kenzo Cotton2018
6.59Jordan Anthony2024
6.60Kenzo Cotton2018
6.60Jarrion Lawson*2016
6.61Jarrion Lawson*2016
6.61Kenzo Cotton2017
6.62Kenzo Cotton2016
6.62Jarrion Lawson*2016
6.62Kristoffer Hari2020
6.62Jordan Anthony2024
*Winner of The Bowerman Award for nation’s top track student-athlete

Not too far below this list is Wallace Spearman Jr., who won multiple medals at World Championships, and Omar McLeod, an Olympic gold medal winner in the 110m hurdles. Granted, the 60m wasn’t the main event of either Spearmon and McLeod, but the point is Anthony is in some obviously elite company.

He’ll get to prove his bona fides in this week’s SEC Indoor Championships at the Tyson Indoor Track Center. Anthony will take the track Friday afternoon for the 60-meter dash prelims and should be considered a major contender in the event.

Oh, and his talents extend to doing impersonations too. Check out his impersonation of Petrino in the embedded video here:

Krosse Johnson, a New Orleans prospect, committed to the Hogs in December after a quick recruitment following Petrino’s hiring. He’s also been clocked at sub-4.4 in the 40 and his 10.54 reported 100-meter time is also extremely impressive.

Counterpoint: Speed Isn’t Everything

Ultimately, it’s not easy to do a clear evaluation of Arkansas’ portal pickups based on reported track times. While speed is certainly necessary to succeed, it doesn’t always follow that the fastest players are the best, or that the best players are the fastest. 

Guys like Tyreek Hill are pretty rare, and Hill possesses skills beyond just his blazing speed. Speedy receivers are often smaller and thus more susceptible to aggressive man coverage that can knock them off their routes. The catch radius of smaller, faster receivers is much smaller, so it’s harder for the quarterback to deliver an accurate pass to them.

That’s an advantage that TeSlaa and Armstrong have: they combined for just two drops in 2023 (per PFF) and Arkansas as a team had one of the lowest drop rates in the SEC (about 8.1%, 5th in SEC, per SEC Stat Cat). Properly used, you don’t need a crazy amount of speed to be successful.

Petrino knows this as well as anyone. Consider the combine times of Arkansas’ elite receivers from the 2010 and 2011 teams: Greg Childs (4.52), Cobi Hamilton (4.56) and Joe Adams (4.51) were all about as fast as Armstrong and TeSlaa. Of course, the Hogs also had Jarius Wright (4.39) to present the best vertical threat.

I suspect the Hogs will go with a balanced receiver room that has different roles. Historically, Petrino has used a few clear roles. There’s the X receiver, or split end, who is typically a possession receiver. Think Childs. The Y receiver, or tight end, is typically opposite the X. Then there’s the Z, or flanker, who generally aligns outside the tight end and runs mostly intermediate routes, but can present a vertical threat against the right coverage. Think Hamilton. 

Finally you have the slot, who is the shifty speedster who can hit a home run down the seam or take a short pass the distance with his breakaway speed. This is Wright. And this is the role that Arkansas didn’t satisfactorily fill in 2023 and needs to fill with these new additions. Petrino always had Wright on the move when he caught the ball, usually on a shallow cross or deep route in the seam.

TeSlaa and Armstrong can fill in the X and Z roles, and the Hogs are set at Y with Luke Hasz and Ty Washington returning. Tyrone Bolden could add depth at X and Jaedon Wilson depth at Z. But I think Sategna, Bryce Stephens, Anthony and maybe even James and Johnson are really competing for that speedy slot position.

It’s unknown how much playing time those top-end speedsters will get in 2024, but they certainly are impressive on paper. Consider that the average 100M time of the four fastest Razorbacks in that metric is 10.4625 is right on par with what two of the SEC’s fastest programs – Alabama and LSU – can unleash:

Alabama Football Burners

  • DB Domani Jackson – 10.25
  • DB Jaylen Mbakwe – 10.46
  • WR Kendrick Law – 10.48
  • WR Cole Adams – 10.65

Average 100m time: 10.46

Smokin’ Hogs

  • WR Jordan Anthony – 10.21
  • WR Dazmin Jmaes – 10.46
  • WR Krosse Johnson – 10.54
  • WR Bryce Stephens – 10.64

Average 100m time: 10.4625
(Isaiah Sategna ran a 10.8, by the way.)

LSU Football Burners

  • WR Chris Hilton – 10.85
  • WR Jelani Watkins – 10.2
  • RB Caden Durham – 10.25
  • RB Kaleb Jackson – 10.66

Average 100m time: 10.49

A couple caveats here: With some intense poking around, we did our best to determine the likely fastest players on Alabama and LSU. But there’s no way to easily confirm this.

Not all of these guys are wide receivers, and we are not pretending that this represents overall team speed. The Arkansas football program still has a way to go in that department to catch up to the SEC elite.

Still, speedy receivers help. In 2024, Arkansas will once again depend on a quarterback who can complete passes into tight windows. KJ Jefferson was pretty good at that, but it’s a hard way to make a living. Taylen Green was not great at making throws into tight windows at Boise State, and we haven’t really seen Jacolby Criswell do that either. 

With Green’s athleticism and arm strength, receivers who can get pretty open will be Arkansas’ best bet. And yards after catch help create more explosives. Arkansas was one of five SEC teams to have less than half their passing yards be after the catch in 2023, so something needs to change.


See Jordan Anthony in action:

Jace Dunegan contributed to this feature.


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