Four Downs: Austin Allen Earns Backup Role


1. Allen Earns Backup Role: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has made a decision about his backup quarterback.

Redshirt freshman Austin Allen will enter the season No. 2 on the Arkansas depth chart behind his older brother, Brandon Allen. Austin Allen has been competing with freshman Rafe Peavey for the backup job this preseason.

“I think Austin has declared himself,” Bielema said. “If there was a situation, unless something dramatically changes the next two weeks, he is our No. 2 quarterback.”

The quarterback pecking order was clear during Arkansas’ 107-play scrimmage in Razorback Stadium, when Allen got most of the work with the second-team offense. He had an up-and-down performance in completing 10 of 21 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, but most of his work against the first-team defense.

Allen threw a four-yard touchdown pass to receiver Anthony Antwine during Arkansas’ redzone work. He nearly had two passes intercepted, too, but safety Josh Liddell dropped the ball twice within a three-play stretch.

Allen started 4-for-5, but completed just one of his final seven passes.

Still, Bielema said all three quarterbacks “took a step forward” Saturday.

Peavey’s first work came with the third-team offense during the second half of the scrimmage. He also got one series with the second-team late, leading the offense to a touchdown. Peavey finished 5-for-9 for 53 yards and a touchdown.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m very excited about what Rafe is doing,” Bielema said. “Rafe has got a very bright future here. We really watered down the offense and just let him play and let his ability show through.”

2. Yes, But No Jojo: Freshman Jojo Robinson’s 23-yard touchdown catch, which included a nifty move to juke veteran safety Rohan Gaines, had Bielema on the move for two reasons Saturday.

First, Robinson showed off the big-play potential Arkansas needs from its receiving corps after catching a short pass from Peavey. But then there was the way Robinson scored, diving and stretching the ball out across the goal line.

Bielema — who ran down the field to talk to Robinson — told the wide receiver he appreciated the effort. But he also wanted Robinson to understand the Razorbacks don’t want anyone diving to get into the end zone.

“That ball will get knocked out more than it will have success,” Bielema said. “I congratulated him and I just said ‘Hey, at Arkansas we run the ball in the end zone.’”

Robinson — who didn’t scrimmage last week because of a hamstring injury — caught three passes for 54 yards and the touchdown in his scrimmage debut.

“Jojo just brings an element to make something out of nothing when he’s in the open field. That is pretty exciting,” Bielema said. “He’s a great, charismatic kid. He took that dive in the end zone there — which I’m more than happy with — I just want him to secure that football and have it close to his heart.

“We just have saying you hold that football close to your heart.”

3. Injury Report: Arkansas was missing a handful of key players during Saturday’s scrimmage.

The list included: RB Jonathan Williams (hamstring), TE AJ Derby (knee), DE Deatrich Wise (knee), RG Denver Kirkland (head injury), LB Brooks Ellis (knee cap), CB Tevin Mitchel (hamstring), RB Kody Walker (undisclosed), RB Juan Day (hamstring), S Davyon McKinney (undisclosed).

Bielema said most of the injured players should be back in time for Arkansas’ preparation for the season opener at Auburn.

“This past week was by far our hardest work week,” Bielema said. “We had three double days in there. A lot of guys got nicked up during the course of the week, fortunately nobody that I don’t think won’t join us for Auburn.”

Kirkland was injured in a collision with offensive lineman Reeve Koehler last Thursday. Bielema didn’t call it a concussion, but said Kirkland had a “significant headache.” Junior college transfer Sebastian Tretola worked with the first-team offensive line in Kirkland’s place Saturday.

Ellis aggravated a kneecap injury he sustained in high school and was held out of the scrimmage. Junior college transfer Josh Williams, who was elevated to second-team work after Otha Peters’ departure, worked with the starters.

“I think Josh has got really good football instincts,” Bielema said. “We even popped him in at fullback the other day. He’s an extremely physical player. He’s another kid that’s very, very football savvy. He gets the game. He understands it.”

4. Extra Points

• Bielema had big praise for freshmen C Frank Ragnow and RT Brian Wallace, calling them “exceptional football players.” Both earned some first-team work Saturday. “I’ve got to believe that those two guys are going to be among the two best I have ever been around,” Bielema said. “Their demeanor, their attitude, their God-given athletic ability and their approach to work is pretty exciting.”

• Bielema addressed the fans in attendance before the scrimmage began Saturday. He provided a rundown of the schedule, then cautioned fans that video taping any portion of the scrimmage was not permitted. “If you see someone videotaping tell them that ain’t right,” Bielema said. “Especially if they’re wearing an Auburn shirt, knock the (expletive) out of them.” Arkansas opens the season at Auburn on Aug. 30.

• Arkansas still is searching for consistency at fullback. Bielema said the picture isn’t any clearer after two weeks of camp. “I wish it was. I am happy with Chris Jones and I think he can do some good things. Patrick Arinze flashes, but we need more consistency. I think Kody can do a lot of really good things, but he is just banged up. … But just a straight hard core thumper, we have got to get that guy because we are going to need that guy and it is yet to be declared.”

• Arkansas will hold its Fan Day festivities today from 2 to 4 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena. Fans in attendance will receive the official 2014 Razorback football team poster and pocked schedule card.

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau