Sategna Hits Restart Button
EX-FAYETTEVILLE STAR USES REDSHIRT SEASON TO LEARN INS AND OUTS OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL
EYE ON THE HAWGS
Isaiah Sategna has never lacked confidence. Why would he? He was a star athlete in two sports at Fayetteville High School. His feats on the football field and on the track were the stuff of legends. He was a 4-star receiver who led his team to a state championship game appearance, piling up statistics that were among the best in the nation. He had multiple Division I football offers and committed to both Oregon and Texas A&M before ultimately signing with Arkansas. Sategna was an elite-level track star who opted not to be an early enrollee at Arkansas so that he could participate in spring track with his high school team. The decision paid off as he dominated the state track meet, breaking a 30-year-old state long jump record held by Arkansas legend Basil Shabazz. He also was named the Gatorade Arkansas Boys Track Athlete of the Year. Making the transition from high school sports at Fayetteville to college sports at Arkansas would be as simple as crossing Stadium Drive from one campus to the other. Except it wasn’t. ”Coming in, I really thought that you just kind of get on the field,” Sategna said. “I learned that it’s a lot more complex than that. I mean you have to do things off the field and there’s still a lot of stuff on the field that you need to do. So I’m just learning all that as we go. I’m still learning today, but I feel like I’m starting to learn the process.” Expectations for the incoming Fayetteville Flash from the Arkansas fanbase were exceedingly high and nearly impossible to attain. The Razorbacks even draped the No. 16 jersey on their budding star, the same jersey worn by another Arkansas star, Treylon Burks from Warren, who had just been a first-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans. It’s also the same number that was worn by another can’t-miss local legend Mitch Mustain for one season. Early in fall camp last year Sategna caught the eye of coach Sam Pittman, but an ankle injury derailed his progress and limited his opportunities dramatically. Sategna saw action in just four games, catching two passes for 12 yards, a far cry from what the Razorbacks faithful envisioned from the highest-rated recruit in the 2022 signing class. He was targeted twice in the Liberty Bowl win against Kansas, catching one pass for 2 yards. “At first, whenever I got injured, I was mad,” he recalled. “I was like ‘Why did this happen to me?’ But I just had to learn that everybody is going to get injured at one point and you’ve just got to play through it. You’ve just got to just keep on giving it your all. And you can’t use the injury as an excuse. Because the people around you are still going to go hard. So you have to go even harder than you were going before.” Playing in just four games preserved a redshirt season for Sategna. It also provided him with the motivation to put last fall behind him. He’s more focused on adding strength while preserving his elite speed. You can easily see he is carrying a little more bulk. “I’ve gained about 15 pounds since I originally got here,” he said. “I’m getting a lot stronger. I love the stuff that coach (Ben) Sowders and the strength group are doing. They are getting us faster and stronger. And I can really see the results. All my maxes went up a crazy amount. And that was just from six months of training, so I’m really seeing the results.” He’s also learning that speed can’t be the only weapon at his disposal. In the SEC, the salty defensive backs are stride-for-stride with the best receivers, so Sategna has had to learn when and when not to turn it on. In high school, he simply outran defenders. “I still feel really fast. I’ve kind of not been trying to use my speed as much whenever I’ve been running routes,” he said. “This spring I’ve been focusing on how can I get open without using my speed. I’ve been trying to use more quickness and more change of speed versus last year, when I was just trying to beat the guy with my speed. “In high school, I was going deep a lot and that’s not the case right now. I mean, I’m still going deep, but I’ve had to learn more intermediate and shorter routes and how to get open on those. In high school, I was just like throw it deep. It’s different now in college.” With a year of college football under his belt, Sategna was anxious to get back on the field this spring. Injury-free, he was able to showcase the ability that made him one of the nation’s most sought-after recruits. All spring long, Sategna earned rave reviews from Arkansas coaches. He capped a stellar series of practices by catching three passes for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the final spring scrimmage. Sategna said the receivers are “playing with a chip on our shoulder.” He’s clearly looking at himself with that comment, feeling like he’s got a lot to prove after a disappointing start to his career last fall. He said he likes the offense installed by new offensive coordinator Dan Enos. “I love the scheme,” he said. “In coach Enos’ offense, it’s a pro-style offense. But I feel like it’s more of a speed offense. You really need to use your speed to get open. I really like the concepts that he has. We haven’t seen the whole offense yet, but what we have, it gets everybody open.” Sategna took a couple of weeks off after spring practice ended and plans to take a little more downtime this summer, visiting his grandparents and working with a personal trainer in Texas. One other important aspect he learned while making the transition from high school to college is that preparing for the season and the next opponent does not occur in just a few days. It takes weeks and months to prepare. He already has Sept. 2 circled on the calendar, when the Razorbacks open the season in Little Rock against Western Carolina. “Part of the process is not just preparing for the game a week ahead of time,” he said. “I’ve really already started preparing. September second, that is the day that we’re going to shock the world, so I’ve already started preparing for that, getting my mind ready for that, just so it doesn’t creep up on me because I know that these next few months are going to go by really fast.” Sategna is ready to prove that last year was an aberration. He’s a year older, 15 rock-solid pounds heavier and now he understands that there’s a lot more than just walking across the street from high school to college.