FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas quarterback Rafe Peavey finally got his opportunity to run the offense after the midway point of Saturday’s scrimmage in Razorback Stadium. But Peavey’s first play of the day didn’t exactly go as planned.
The freshman short-hopped a pass to the sideline.
“I had been sitting there for about 30 minutes and that first play, I threw short,” Peavey said during Arkansas’ media day festivities Sunday afternoon. “I threw it right in the dirt and I was like, ‘Well, that’s not good.’”
But it happens. Perfection isn’t guaranteed as Arkansas puts together its backup plan behind starting quarterback Brandon Allen this preseason. Instead, experience and improvement are the goals as the Razorbacks try to strengthen a position which had its weakness exposed when Allen suffered his shoulder injury last fall.
While all eyes are on Allen as he and the Razorbacks try to improve on offense, the development of Arkansas’ other quarterbacks — Peavey and redshirt freshman Austin Allen — has been an emphasis of practice, too.
Allen and Peavey remain No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, on the depth chart, holding onto their positions after Arkansas’ late-spring purge pushed AJ Derby over to tight end and Damon Mitchell to wide receiver. Both got a chance to show their summer growth in last Saturday’s scrimmage and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney believes the repetitions — both good plays and bad — were valuable.
“Austin started out hot and continued that way all the way through the day,” Chaney said. “I thought Austin made some good decisions and threw the ball accurately. I think Rafe was solid and delivered the ball accurately. But he still didn’t have the command that Austin seemed to have (Saturday).
“But I like both of them. I’m real pleased with Austin and I was OK with Rafe. I wasn’t down on him. He’s just got a lot on his plate right now.”
Peavey, who arrived last winter, is participating in his first preseason camp.
The Bolivar, Mo., native is thankful he had a head start though, saying his spring on campus was critical. Peavey got a taste of Arkansas’ playbook, experienced the speed of the game and adjusted to his new surroundings in the offense.
Peavey also got a chance to see how much growth a quarterback can make with his work in the summer. Film study with the Allen brothers and throwing sessions with receivers helped Peavey get prepared for preseason camp.
“In the spring it was a lot to take in just because it was all new, but now I’m getting more comfortable with it right now,” said Peavey, who rebounded from his first attempt Saturday to finish 7-for-10 for 44 yards. “I’ve had a lot of time to learn it.”
So has Austin Allen, who traveled with the team as Arkansas’ third-team quarterback last season. It showed in his scrimmage performance Saturday.
The redshirt freshman turned in the best practice performance of his career, according to Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. Allen, who spent most of the scrimmage with the second-team offense, went 9-for-9 to start the scrimmage and finished 16-for-20 for 190 yards. He also got one series with the starters.
“I think it’s just getting more reps in practice and all that,” Allen said of his improvement. “Also getting into the playbook all summer. So I’m way more comfortable with the play calls and getting used to the speed of the game.”
Chaney said “knowledge” and “reps, reps, reps and more reps” are the reasons for Allen’s added comfort since the spring. Brandon Allen said a sense of urgency helped as well for his younger brother in the summer.
“He’s grown tremendously over the summer just getting in his playbook and realizing he’s the backup QB,” Allen said. “He’s got to be ready to go in. I think he’s really studied his butt off trying to be more confident in the offense and he’s done a great job of that. He’s still learning. He’s still young. But he’s coming on quickly.”
The Razorbacks will continue to put Allen and Peavey to the test this month.
In fact, coach Bret Bielema said last week it was Arkansas’ obligation to “make it happen” because having a backup quarterback ready was “essential.”
Bielema wants Brandon Allen to get half the repetitions, while Austin Allen and Peavey divide the rest. Austin Allen said Sunday it has stayed true to plan so far. His brother has taken six snaps in practices, while the other two get the next six.
Allen and Peavey are eager for the work as Arkansas puts together its backup plan.
“It’s a big part in football,” Allen said. “You’ve got to prepare like a starter throughout the week even though you’re not really penciled in as the starter. You’ve always got to be ready whenever your name is called and go out there and produce.”