Four Downs: Allen Leads QB Race As Spring Game Nears


1. Allen Ahead, But No Starter Named

Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said Monday sophomore Brandon Allen is ahead of senior Brandon Mitchell in the race for the starting quarterback job.

But Chaney also said Allen’s lead isn’t necessarily a wide margin as the Razorbacks inch closer to the spring-ending Red-White Game on Saturday.

“I think the smoothness, the way the offense is running, it appears that way to me also, subjectively,” Chaney said when asked if Allen was leading the way at quarterback. “Statistically, when you look at accuracy and decisions, he’s a little bit ahead, but not considerably. I feel comfortable in letting those guys compete until coach is determined to make some decisions on which way he wants to go.

“I’m really comfortable with how they’re doing that.”

Each quarterback has one more practice and the Red-White Game to make a lasting impression on the coaching staff before Arkansas steps off the practice field until preseason camp. Allen has worked exclusively with the first-team group in each of the three practices open to the media, while Mitchell has run the second team.

It will likely remain that way when the Razorbacks scrimmage in Razorback Stadium on Saturday. But Mitchell believes the spring-ending game will be “big” for both quarterbacks as they try to turn in strong outings to end the month.

“This is going to be our first real game action even though we can’t get hit,” Mitchell said. “We can actually go out and put on a performance on TV in front of a big crowd and have different situations of a game that’s not just a scrimmage.”

It’s not clear if Arkansas plans to name a starter after spring practice or will carry the competition into the summer. Chaney said it won’t be his decision, though.

“That’s Coach’s call. He’ll make that,” Chaney said. “My job is to get them all ready the best I possibly can using the reps that he’s given me with them. I stay out of that. He’ll pick that stating quarterback. He’ll ask me my opinion and we’ll move on.”

Allen said it doesn’t matter either way. He and Mitchell plan to carry the competition into the summer whether one is named the starter or not after spring drills end.

“I think that drive is really in both of us and it wouldn’t stop either way if one of us is named,” Allen said. “We’d still try to push each other.”

2. Positive Passing

Chaney described Arkansas’ passing offense as being in the infant stages last week.

He noted plenty of improvements after Arkansas’ 13th practice Tuesday.

“Up until now it’s been tough for me to say anything positive about what we’ve been getting done in the passing game, but I felt like this past Saturday we went out and did some better things,” Chaney said. “There actually were some plays that were recognizable, and we threw it and we caught it pretty well. We made a few explosive plays, and I was pleased with the development on Saturday.”

Chaney said Arkansas followed it up with another solid performance in Tuesday’s practice. Allen said the improvement has been evident in the past week.

“We’ve kind of had that run game established and we’re doing a great job with that still,” Allen said. “The passing game is something we really need to get going to win ballgames. The last three days we’ve made huge strides and it has been a lot better.”

3. QB-WR Connection

Arkansas receivers coach Michael Smith said the Razorbacks have been working to get quarterbacks and receivers on the same page on deep balls this spring. It appears Allen and senior Javontee Herndon have developed the best bond so far.

The duo connected for a handful of deep passes during last Saturday’s practice, earning compliments from Chaney and the coaching staff. Allen said Herndon’s speed has been one big reason for the duo’s ability to connect.

“He has a lot of speed and he has great hands,” Allen said. “Him being a deep threat is going to be huge for us. He’s not the only one. We have a lot of speed at receiver and people that can make plays. But he has been blowing by some people for me.”

4. No Hurd

Arkansas’ offensive line continued to work without left tackle David Hurd, who has been sidelined by a sprained knee ligament. Chaney said the injury hasn’t helped the group, but does continue to be impressed with sophomore Austin Beck.

Beck replaced Hurd with the starters during last Saturday’s practice.

“Beck goes in there and competes,” Chaney said. “This boy’s a hard-nosed young man that … it’s so, so important to him. It just shows. And when he makes a mistake, he’d like to cut his own head off.”

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau