Arkansas football receivers step up with top guys out

Arkansas receiver Isaiah Sategna (16) makes a move Tuesday, March 26, 2024, around assistant coach Ronnie Fouch during practice in Fayetteville. (Andy Shupe/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

FAYETTEVILLE — With top wideouts Andrew Armstrong and Jaedon Wilson on the sidelines Saturday rehabbing hamstring issues, senior Tyrone Broden and sophomore Isaiah Sategna rose up and turned in big scrimmage performances for the University of Arkansas.

The 6-7 Broden had perhaps the day’s best catch on which he elevated for a 50-50 ball from quarterback Taylen Green down the left sideline and snagged the pass behind the back of cornerback Jaylon Braxton for a 30-yard gain during situational work.

Sategna led all receivers with 5 receptions and 83 receiving yards and he brought in a 33-yard touchdown pass from Green.

“I feel like he has a natural feel for the game, just natural pockets and zones on different routes and options that he has,” Green said of Sategna. “When they’re playing man, you already know the speed that he has, the separation that he can create, and it’s definitely a matchup that we like.”

The Razorbacks will continue to work reps in what could be an improved receiving corps when they return to the practice fields for their ninth workout of spring Tuesday.

Armstrong made a big debut as a transfer from Texas A&M-Commerce, leading the Razorbacks with 56 catches for 764 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The 6-4 Armstrong joined with Broden (15 catches, 109 yards, 3 TDs) and 6-4 Isaac TeSlaa (34-351, 2 TDs) to give the Razorbacks a tall trio of transfers last year from smaller-level schools. All three returned and have a shot to bolster a receiving corps under the leadership of new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino and position coach Ronnie Fouch.

Armstrong and Broden in particular have shown in the spring they could be prepared to up their game this fall.

“When I first got here, I got with them right away,” Fouch said last week. “Just enjoyed meeting them as people and seeing what they’re about. They’re so self-motivated as a group, those older guys, and they really push the room.

“They call out other people before me sometimes. We coach technique, we’re really firm on our splits and alignments and they’ll help me coach those guys up.”

Fouch noted Broden’s position flexibility has allowed them to line him up in the slot to get mismatches against nickel backs or linebackers.

“Just getting him over the middle with his big frame, it’s an easy throw for Taylen and the quarterbacks to put the ball on him,” Fouch said. “He’s just been impressive to me with his ability to play in the slot as well with his releases and foot quickness. Because a lot of taller guys, they don’t have the quickest feet. He has quick feet like Sategna and he’s 6-6. It’s just been impressive with his talent overall.”

Coach Sam Pittman has talked up Armstrong and Broden since the opening of spring drills.

“Outstanding,” Pittman said to describe Armstrong’s early work in spring. “He’s another guy I think has developed into a leader with Broden. … I’m really proud of him. Andrew to me has really changed. Him and Broden have changed. They’re older and taking responsibility and catching the ball well.”

Said Fouch, “They’ve really been leading the group from the front and they want the ball like Coach Pittman said. They want their name called on key situations, third downs and I’ve just been impressed with how eager they are to learn and allowing me to push them where they want to go.”

Armstrong made one outstanding catch after the next, many of them one-handed, during the first seven spring practices.

“He’s another versatile receiver,” Green said. “He can beat you deep. His comebacks, his slants, you never know what route he’s going to do and he’s going to create separation. That’s the one thing, both [Armstrong and Broden], when they come to the sideline, I ask them what they’re thinking on certain routes.

“Sometimes they’re like, ‘Man, just throw it and I’ll catch it. Throw it and I’ll catch it.’ I was like, ‘All right.’ Coming from a quarterback, that’s good to hear. … It’s not a 50-50 ball. Either they’re coming down with it or no one is coming down with it. Most of the time, they’re going to come down with it.”

Sategna, the former Fayetteville High two-sport standout, is doubling up again as a return specialist and he seems positioned to drastically improve on his 15 catches for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns from last year.

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

Said Fouch, “I heard about his speed, I heard about his high school career, but just getting to know him, he loves the game and he goes hard every day.

“Every time he comes up to the ball he’s going full speed, and I love the way he attacks the football. He’s got strong hands and the way he tucks the ball right away looking to run, that’s the main thing because we want to get the ball in his hands and let him run with it. He’s doing a great job with his attention to detail.”

Among the younger wideouts, Davion Dozier, Dazmin James and CJ Brown of Bentonville have shown flashes throughout the first half of spring workouts.

Dozier had a massive day on the final practice before Spring Break, highlighted by his back-hand, one-handed catch for a touchdown. The 6-4 redshirt freshman had a couple of drops Saturday.

The 6-2 Brown has also had a little catch inconsistency, but he’s also turned in numerous strong catches while immersing in the offense.

“CJ Brown has had a really good spring,” redshirt freshman quarterback Malachi Singleton said. “Really good off the line. Really good releases. Finds open spaces on option routes. A really smart player as well.”