Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A two-time graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Allen leading QB race
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen runs drills during practice Saturday morning at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Despite a healthy position battle, Brandon Allen is still Arkansas' top quarterback this spring.
The redshirt junior ran exclusively with the Razorbacks' first-team offense Saturday in the team's first scrimmage of the spring. Allen completed 16 of 19 passes for 247 yards, threw one touchdown pass and was intercepted once.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Allen made strides physically and mentally this offseason and is ahead of younger brother Austin Allen and A.J. Derby at the position. The Razorbacks have five quarterbacks going through spring practice, including Rafe Peavey, a heralded prep star last season in Missouri.
"He looks different physically," said Bielema, who is in his second year at Arkansas. "He plays different. He's got so much composure. What I love there, not that I wanted to see it, but when we had a couple guys jump offsides, he really let the huddle have an awareness of what we needed to do and what was expected. You like your quarterback to step up in that fashion and I think he's done it. "
Allen, a native of Fayetteville and son of a former longtime UA assistant coach, struggled in his first season as a starter for the Razorbacks. He threw 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season while leading the SEC's worst pass offense during a 3-9 season.
"You can't replace experience," Bielema said, "and to be able to say he started 11 games — although they obviously weren't results that we wanted — I think that dynamic of just being in the huddle, paying the consequences of wins and losses, success and failure, you just can't put a value on that."
Allen led one of two touchdown drives for the offense during the 101-play scrimmage, throwing a 67-yard touchdown to tight end Hunter Henry. A.J. Derby led the other scoring drive and finished the day completing 8 of 13 passes for 146 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Austin Allen looked rattled by defensive pressure at times and finished the day 5 of 10 for 64 yards.
"I think that Austin is making progress every practice," Bielema said. "He's a kid that I think flourishes in a game-like situation. He's got a nice arm. A.J. has experience on him, but I think that gap has definitely beginning to tighten and whether or not he's passed him, I'll leave that up to (offensive coordinator Jim) Chaney and have a discussion after our film."
Reigning AP SEC freshman of the year Alex Collins carried the ball eight times for 38 yards, including a 25-yard run near the end of the scrimmage.
Jonathan Williams was limited four carries for 14 yards, which Bielema said was planned. Denzel Evans had eight carries for 52 yards while working with the second-team offense.
Freshman receiver Jared Cornelius, who enrolled at Arkansas this spring, caught three passes for 51 yards. Sophomore receiver Drew Morgan had three catches for 54 yards and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle had three catches for 66 yards, including a 39-yard reception from Brandon Allen.
Defensively, Arkansas forced two turnovers had eight would-be sacks (the quarterbacks wore green jerseys and were off-limits) to end plays. Two of those sacks were from Deatrich Wise, whose presence appeared to cause multiple false start penalties against the Razorbacks' first-team offensive line.
"I can’t go out and go from coast to coast in the United States of America and find a better physical presence than Deatrich Wise," Bielema said. "I mean, he’s 6-foot-5. He’s 275, 280 pounds. He runs like a deer. He’s intelligent. The things that have limited him has been his maturity and his ability to handle the moment. He’s gotten so much better at that, I just think the kid is growing leaps and bounds."
Defensive end Trey Flowers will be held out of scrimmages this spring, Bielema said. Running back Korliss Marshall is awaiting medical clearance from an unspecified injury and didn't practice.
This story was syndicated by The Associated Press