Arkansas’ offense starts hot, defense has good day

By Otis Kirk
on 2024-03-30 13:34 PM

FAYETTEVILLE — The first scrimmage of the spring is in the books and both sides of the ball had some good moments.

The offense with quarterback Taylen Green started off hot scoring touchdowns the first two times it had the ball. The first drive was a seven-play, 75-yard one that ended with Green hitting tight end Luke Hasz for a 24-yard touchdown.

The next drive was a nine-play, 65-yard one that ended with Ja’Quinden Jackson powering in from the 11-yard line. He was hit time after time, but was determined to not be denied on the run.

Unofficially, Green was 10 of 23 passing for 157 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He also gained 38 yards and six attempts. Green was asked what was the reason for the hot start?

“Alright, three-parter,” Green said. “Hot start. We put a big emphasis on starting fast. Throughout the week we had our fastball, we call it, starting the practice and I think it was Tuesday we didn’t start how we wanted to. That was a big emphasis for us. First quarter, setting the tempo and having the mentality of we’re about to go score on the first drive.”

The offense on Saturday certainly looked like a Bobby Petrino offense. Green was asked about Petrino and what he has helped him with the most?

“I’ll answer the second one first,” Green said. “My IQ. Just knowing football and knowing the ins and outs and knowing the whys. Why concepts work against what coverage. Just going through my reads, and the big thing is just being consistent with that and being consistent with my footwork and what he harps on with me and us, is having an expectation of every single drive our goal is to score, and we’re going to score. If we don’t score, you know, he’s going to get on us. That’s what I like. He definitely keeps it real. Sometimes you don’t wanna hear it, but you need to hear it. You need that info. You need that person to just keep it real and keep it honest, and that’s what I like.”

Jacolby Criswell was 8 of 14 passing for 59 yards unofficially on Saturday. He played behind KJ Jefferson last year. The obvious question to Criswell, who he and Jefferson had to run for their life last year, how much improved is the offensive line?

“I’d say the connection,” Criswell said. “Every single week, every single day of the week, they’re doing something together. It’s eating. Hanging out. Doing something. As for all three of us, we love that, just because for us those are top-tier guys. Those are the guys, like if we’re going to be successful, it all starts up front. If you see that every single day, it’s like, okay, let me make sure I’m doing what I have to do. They’re doing what they have to do. And so, you just love it. From last year, you had that same connection, but there’s just little pieces that were just, bits and pieces that just wasn’t there. Now, as you can see, we got a lot of transfers in the portal for o-line, and you just look at them now, it’s the connection. The brotherhood that they all have, and everyone loves it.”

Malachi Singleton was, unofficially, 11 of 15 passing for 107 yards and for 23 more on four attempts. He was asked about the scrimmage and how he felt it went.

“I thought it was pretty good just overall,” Singleton said. “I thought the O-line did a really good job today. I don’t think there were too many sacks. I think the receivers got off the ball really good and the running backs ran the ball really good. I know there’s some things we’ve got to correct in the quarterback room, but I know I feel like every quarterback that went in today had a really good day.”

Singleton talked about what makes Petrino’s offense appealing to him.

“Really just everything,” Singleton said. “I love how he wants us to be explosive in the run game, as well as in the pass game. He just wants us to be smart football players. He gives us the keys to the offense, like Jacolby was saying earlier. It’s on us to get us in the right play, get us in the right run checks. Really just having the keys to the offense and being able to play my game and our game, just really been grateful for it.”

Two true freshmen stood out on offense. Running back Braylen Russell and wide receiver CJ Brown. Russell rushed eight times for 50 yards and a touchdown while also grabbing four passes for 50 yards. Brown caught four passes for 42 yards. Singleton is impressed with both.

“I think both of those guys are going to be really good players for us,” Singleton said. “CJ Brown has had a really good spring. Really good off the line. Really good releases. Finds open spaces on option routes. Really smart player as well. Braylen Russell, you see him. He’s a unit. And he’s fast. I’ve never seen one like him. He’s a really good player and definitely will play a lot for us.”

Green also hit wide receiver Isaiah Sategna for a 33-yard touchdown. Sategna had six catches for 86 yards and the touchdown.

“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. The ability and the versatility that he has, it’s really cool to see. We just have to do our job and just give him the ball and let him go to work.”

On defense, unofficially both linebacker Xavian Sorey Jr. and safety TJ Metcalf had 10 tackles each to lead the defense. Sorey credited Travis Williams, the defensive coordinator, for him being at Arkansas.

“In high school, when he was at Auburn, that was a top school for me, but I ended up choosing another school (Georgia),” Sorey said. “He came here, and when I hit the portal he reached out again and we just connected again. It was like we never left off. Coach T-Will, I think we’ve got a great relationship.”

Cornerback Jaylen Braxton is considered one of the leaders on defense. He declared his side of the ball the winner on Saturday.

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

Arkansas will return to the practice fields on Tuesday.

(Last updated: 2024-03-30 13:34 PM)