Analysis: What Tyrone Broden Brings to Arkansas

Following the conclusion of last season, it was clear what was going to occur with Arkansas’ wide receiver room. Replenished with transfers Jadon Haselwood and Matt Landers last season, they would inevitably take on the NFL. With the pair vacating their seats, contributors Warren Thompson and Ketron Jackson also took on a new chapter. 

While the staff still believes they have something in the young players behind those leaving, there was still going to be too much of a void to stare into. Bryce Stephens – when discounting Rocket Sanders’ receiving stats –  is the returnee with the most yards from 2022. How many yards was that you may ask? On just nine catches, he totalled 109 yards. Jaedon Wilson is even further back due to lack of playing time up until the Liberty Bowl. In all, the Razorbacks lost over 2000 yards worth of production from pass catchers. It certainly made the stomach churn leading into the first portal window, but Pittman was ready to search far and wide.

Flowing back into the present slowly, the aforementioned Haselwood and Landers presented themselves in the NFL Combine once it rolled around. While one can shrug at that statement, it was marketing material for the Arkansas coaching staff. Bringing in two coveted wideout transfers for one season and sending them off to the draft? That paid major dividends for Arkansas’ search, needless to say. 

Getting involved with countless wide receivers at different levels in the portal, the Razorbacks returned with three top-notch, yet under the radar prospects. While Texas A&M C.C. transfer Andrew Armstrong was the first to join the squad, the second transfer breakdown will focus on Tyrone Broden, who brings a hefty amount of mystery. He’s been battling the injury bug all spring, but the Bowling Green transfer will bring a substantial bag of tricks when healthy. 

Background

Coming out of West Bloomfield, Michigan, the 6-4 wide out was viewed by many as a super raw prospect. About as wide as a pencil his senior year, he was listed just under 180 pounds. There were a handful of teams that were willing to bite on the potential that Broden exhibited as a low three-star prospect. With the majority of his offer list including MAC teams, some of the Power-Five outliers included Iowa State, Purdue, and Syracuse. Instead of staying closer to home and playing for the Michigan-based MAC teams, Broden chose to hit the road to Bowling Green. 

As Broden continued to grow into his own body, he would be redshirted his first season in the brown and orange. The 2020 season gave him a chance to finally play valuable snaps as he recorded six catches for nearly 100 yards. That momentum carried over from the COVID season brought a breakout year in 2021. 

Becoming a certified deep threat for the Falcons, he reeled off a career best 596 yards through the air on 36 receptions. Dissecting those stats, the 2021 season held a career best in yards per catch as well which sat at 16.6 yards. He also hauled in five touchdowns. After his career year, Broden was still not done growing and improving. 

Finally obtaining his 6-7 frame, he was able to go to work during the 2022 season. Appearing in all 13 games and starting seven of them for the Falcons, Broden ripped off another very solid year. While receptions would dip from 36 to 32, he still accounted for over 500 yards. Seven touchdowns would be the cap to his final year in Bowling Green as he finally took advantage of the transfer portal. 

Marketing himself, Broden racked up nearly 1200 career yards and valuable experience at the FBS level. Producing against teams such as Mississippi State, UCLA, and Minnesota, it boosted his appeal to many Power-Five programs. Broden would narrow his final two schools down to Arkansas and Penn State and ultimately shocked many with his decision to become a Razorback. With one more season to play college ball, it will be crucial for Broden to polish up what makes him dangerous as he pushes for the NFL.

Arkansas’ Ultimate Deep-Threat

When listed at 6-7 and roughly 200 pounds, the first aspect of his game to come to mind should be figured immediately. If being tied as the tallest FBS wide receiver wasn’t enough, 16.2 yards per catch on his career should paint more of a picture. According to Pro-Football Focus, Broden obtained seven passes deeper than 20 yards down field in 2022. The great thing is, Broden isn’t scared to flex his size down the field either. Of six passes that were thrown at least 20 yards downfield and considered ‘contested,’ Broden came away with five of them (83.3%). That percentage was tied for second among FBS wide outs according to PFF. Diving into his tape, there are a few key elements that combine to allow Broden to produce those feats.

It starts with speed. Since settling in Fayetteville, Broden has solidified himself as one of the top three fastest players on the entire team. That places him with the likes of Isaiah Sategna, a known speedster at the wide receiver position. Both players recorded top speeds of just under 22 miles per hour before spring practices took shape. 

Taking a look at his time at Bowling Green, while the speed wasn’t showcased on every play, fly routes were always his forte. It starts on the snap as Broden holds a great deal of burst for a player of his stature. Considering he holds top notch straight-line speed, coming clean off the line is sometimes all he needs. Many corners were burned by Broden if they chose to play flat-footed or backpedal into coverage. Those that chose to not play scared and run with Broden could at least attempt to keep up with him. The leverage he holds straight down the field would often leave defenders in the dust. In some cases, fast reacting DBs managed to keep up with Broden. That’s when the second challenge for an opposing defensive back takes shape. 

Broden showcased his premiere ball tracking ability over the past two seasons. As was the case for many MAC cornerbacks, his size paired with his tracking ability spelt trouble. While purely using his body to shield worked at a great clip against the opposition he was dealt, Broden seemed to get complacent in his game. There will still be many SEC-level players that will stand no match for his frame, but he could cause even more havoc outside of his God given ability. 

Minor tweak to his game?

Something that is relatively void in Broden’s game is consistent aggression when dealing with press coverage. He has a tendency to just use his speed as deception in order to shake the low hanging defensive backs. That’s something that won’t fly nearly as often at the highest level of college football. Getting more physical off the line, whether it be with his frame or arms to stun the opposition would allow his acceleration to really create separation. 

The same scenario applies down the field in jump ball situations. While snagging at the marvelous clip of 83.3% mentioned earlier, more physicality could go a long way. Drawing only a few flags last season, the aggression would keep defenders from just camping out as many did. Instead, it would likely have defenders get more grabby and trigger even more laundry from the referees. 

Red Zone Usage

What a waste it would be to have a 6-7 athlete that doesn’t test the opposing teams’ red zone defense? Luckily, his Bowling Green coaches didn’t waste that opportunity presented to them. When their offense reached first and goal to go, the opposition knew at least one ball would be tossed up for Broden to fetch. While he doesn’t own the insane body control noted in TeSlaa’s breakdown, Broden doesn’t necessarily need to be a contortionist in the air. 

The standout ability he possesses is being able to catch the ball on a consistent basis with both his hands and his body. Taking on back shoulder throws and throws over the top, there are many plays where Broden used his hands and chest to cradle the catch. While taking primary effect on deep balls, it was also used for jump balls in the end zone. 

Becoming even more of a disadvantage for opponents, good luck out-reaching Broden. One catch in particular coming against Marshall showcased his reach and handiness with a one-handed extension. While plucking the football flashes his tracking firstly, using strictly his hands to conceal catches on the regular could boost his jump ball success alongside his NFL potential.

Clone of Matt Landers?

With Broden and Landers both encapsulating the same build and coming from the same conference, the question can certainly be entertained. If one aspect of their game had to be paralleled outside of their frame and background, it comes with the ball in their hands. Coming out of Toledo, Landers was noted for his footwork both on curl routes and making defenders look silly. While Broden isn’t as established in his route running, the rapid fire feet are there. 

On routes outside of verticals, Broden plays at a more methodical pace which allows him to be more spectacular after the catch. He can break down a defender with a very effective stop-and-go badge to his name. Aided by casual head fakes, his extra long strides can create deception and separation on stalled defenders. While not on the same level to which Matt Landers attributed, it’s still a vital aspect of Broden’s game with the ball in his hands.

A more obvious similarity between the two comes with their straight-line speed. Both players possess different speeds to which they play overall, but they have the same mission when it comes to the deep ball. It’s hard to gauge which player is faster as is, but both are absolute burners after the catch. Whether it’s a catch in stride or attempting to out-run a pursuit angle, Broden’s extra gear truly comes in handy.

Final Thoughts

The sad truth is that none of this will matter if Broden can’t remain healthy. While there are no major red flags, the minor bangs and bruises can start to add up if the staff isn’t careful. Considering that all signs are pointing to Broden receiving the green light, Arkansas fans need to hold out hope that it remains that way. 

As with TeSlaa, Broden will be just as dangerous of a deep threat if not scarier considering his larger frame and faster top speed. His success to this point in his career has come purely off of harnessing his natural talent. Pairing his long strides with light feet, everything else just falls into place. 

That said, becoming more physical without the ball will be something to key in on. As mentioned previously, Broden doesn’t get overly aggressive against press man as many know he can. Following through with aggression, coach Sam Pittman loves to prioritize his tight ends and wide outs on blocking with a purpose. While Broden has proven effort, consistency will need to show.

Broden will create frustration for plenty of SEC defensive backs and coordinators as is, but it feels as if there’s another level or two he can unlock. Having a quarterback in KJ Jefferson to huck a few deep balls his way, the number one priority will still remain atop the pyramid. Even if little progression is made elsewhere, Broden’s current skill set can allow for him to be elite, but time will tell.