'He's earned that': Bobby Petrino makes it clear Taylen Green is leading Arkansas' quarterbacks

Arkansas offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino (left) is shown, Tuesday, March 26, 2024, alongside coach Sam Pittman and quarterback Taylen Green (right) during practice inside the Pat and Willard Walker Pavilion on the university campus in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)

FAYETTEVILLE — Offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino made it clear Tuesday during his media availability Boise State transfer Taylen Green is in line to be the Arkansas football team’s starting quarterback.

Entering the spring, a quarterback battle between Green and returners Jacolby Criswell and Malachi Singleton was expected. But through nine of the team’s practices, it has been Green who has been the clear first-string leader.

Petrino said there is, however, a battle for who could be Green’s backup.

“Taylen has kind of been the guy that works with the [first team],” Petrino said. “He's earned that himself from the minute he got here — how he's conducted his business, how he leads, how he studies, how hard he goes, and in all the mat drills that we did, he's the first guy winning on the races.

“He's done a nice job on that. I think there's a good competition for who's going to be No. 2. I’m really not sure who that is right now.”

A facet of Green’s game that has stood out throughout the spring is his running ability. His ability to create with his legs is clear, although the extent of it has not been fully on display since Arkansas isn't fully tackling its quarterbacks in practice.

“Right now, we're not even doing a lot of quarterback running game stuff just because we want to get better on the other parts of it,” Petrino said. “We do it in drills and we practice it all the time, but when you get in scrimmages, they blow the whistle… So we haven't done a whole lot of that, but he's pretty special when he turns it on. That stride and speed that he has, he can really run.”

As a redshirt sophomore for the Broncos in 2023, Green had a 57.1% completion rate. Improving his accuracy is something Petrino has set as a goal.

“That's something that we're working extremely hard on,” Petrino said. “The majority of it is technique and fundamentals. He's got to get set, he's got to stay balanced and he's got to get over the top on his release. Even the other day when he missed a couple [passes], I called them layups, it was all technique. He dropped his hip, dropped his elbow, ball flew. Something that can't happen.

“He's got to get the muscle memory where when it's in the heat of the battle, that he's perfect on his technique. And I tell you what, I tip my hat off to him. He was working extremely hard at it today.”

Petrino gave an update on the quarterbacks behind Green, specifically Criswell, who is learning the third offense of his college career. He transferred to Arkansas last season under offensive coordinator Dan Enos after spending three seasons at North Carolina.

“Malachi, Jacolby, and KJ [Jackson], the youngster, have all had their bright spots,” Petrino said, “and then made mistakes and had some spots that aren't what we want.

“I think it's been hard on Jacolby, as far as [it being] the third new offense and how he's got to get there. And not necessarily mentally, but the drops and the things that we do different are different to him. So, he's got to catch his feet up. He's got a great arm, and he's working hard at it. I love his attitude.”

Singleton and Criswell have split second-string reps, and Jackson, a left-handed thrower, has been primarily with the third unit.

Notes from Arkansas' Tuesday practice

  • Safety Jayden Johnson made some nice plays during team periods. During “fastball start” early in practice, he stripped the ball from freshman running back Braylen Russell. Later, he picked off Taylen Green at the goal line, and in a normal game situation, he would’ve had a good chance at returning it all the way for a pick-six.
  • Receivers Tyrone Broden and Isaiah Sategna continue to impress with the first-team offense. Broden is expected to be one of Arkansas’ top receivers when the fall arrives, and Sategna has gotten more first-team reps with a few players out with injuries. He’s made the most of the opportunity, stringing together good practices from last week through today.
  • Receivers Andrew Armstrong and Bryce Stephens did not participate in team periods due to injuries, but they went through drills with their position group.
  • Running back Rashod Dubinion was in a green jersey for the first time this spring Tuesday, but he did participate in team periods.
  • Vito Calvaruso out-kicked Hawaii transfer kicker Matthew Shipley in the final period of practice. Calvaruso was good from 28, 35, 42 and 47 yards out. Shipley missed off the right upright from 36 and was wide right from 42 and 48.
  • Arkansas ran a situational drill at the end of practice in which each offense was faced with a little over 30 seconds to play, no timeouts and needing a field goal starting at the 48-yard line. Only the first-team offense successfully got the necessary field goal. The second-team offense, led by Jackson, ran out of time after two plays when Jackson held onto the ball too long on one play and then completed a pass to Davion Dozier, who didn't get out of bounds. The third-team offense, led by Criswell, got a field goal attempt in, but Calvaruso's kick was no good.

Christina Long contributed to this report.