Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Austin Allen set at backup
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen looks for a receiver during the Red-White Game on Saturday, April 26, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- When Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen suffered a shoulder injury in the third game last season, coaches didn't feel Austin Allen was ready to take over.
Now they do.
Austin Allen -- a redshirt freshman from Fayetteville and Brandon's younger brother -- has been named by Coach Bret Bielema as the Razorbacks' No. 2 quarterback going into the season opener at Auburn on Aug. 30. Freshman Rafe Peavey is No. 3.
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"I'm glad he has confidence in me, but everyone's always going to keep working," Austin Allen said of Bielema's endorsement. "I've got to get better and try to take Brandon's spot, and Rafe's got to get better and try to take my spot."
Senior AJ Derby, now at tight end, was the backup quarterback when he replaced Brandon Allen against Southern Mississippi and started against Rutgers. Allen returned in the fifth game against Texas A&M, but missed significant practice time the rest of the season and received numbing shots in his shoulder to deal with the pain.
With five games left last season and the Razorbacks in the midst of a nine-game losing streak, Bielema stressed that Allen remained the best option at quarterback, rather than playing Derby, Austin Allen or Damon Mitchell, a redshirt freshman now at receiver.
"Let's be honest," Bielema said at the time, "you've got to deal with reality there. If there was a guy I thought would give us a better chance, we would play him."
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said Austin Allen has improved to the extent he's a viable option.
"Nothing against AJ and those guys, but Austin has been here a year and knows the offense better than AJ did at this time last year," Chaney said. "For the most part, he knows where to go with the ball."
Allen completed 16 of 20 passes for 190 yards earlier this month in Arkansas' first scrimmage, leading the second-team offense against the second team-defense. In the second scrimmage, he played for the second-team offense against the starting defense and completed 10 of 21 passes for 86 yards.
"It's been a lot of learning and just getting accustomed to the game even more," Allen said.
If he had to play at Auburn?
"I feel ready for it," Allen said. "I feel like I can step in there and run the offense and know what Coach Chaney wants and lead the team."
Brandon Allen said he has confidence in his brother and the progress he's made going back to last year's fall camp.
"He's really improved, especially since his first day," Brandon Allen said. "We worked hard all summer and we got into the playbook a lot.
"He really did his best to be mentally prepared for every practice in this camp."
Receivers coach Michael Smith said Austin Allen is beginning to step out of Brandon's shadow.
"Sometimes you get caught in that little brother mode, but I think he's done some good things," Smith said. "He's really picked up this offense well, and my guys have a lot of confidence in Austin.
"Brandon's our guy, but I think Austin's made great strides."
Austin Allen said he still has a lot to learn, but he has a comfort level with the offense he didn't have last season. He understands the coaches expectations.
"Coming in last year, going from high school to here, it's completely 180 [degrees] different," Austin Allen said. "Just going into practice every day and knowing how to practice, be a professional really, handling my business on and off the field.
"Last year I'd get the ball and know where one guy was, and then not really know the second option. This year I know where the checkdowns are."
Brandon Allen said he tries to help the backup quarterbacks as much as possible.
"It's not really a brother-brother thing on the field, it's more of a player-player thing," he said. "I like to see them making good plays and making sure I'm on top of my game.
"Any time in practice I see them doing something that I know from experience isn't going to work, I'll tell them, 'Look, try it this way the next time and it will work better.' Any kind of little thing I've been through, I like to help them out."
Peavey has completed 12 of 19 passes for 97 yards in two scrimmages with a 20-yard run.
"Austin has done a good job and Rafe has also," Chaney said. "I'm pleased with both of those guys today and as it sits, it's Austin and Rafe.
"But those two are competing against each other and keeping it going."
Bielema said after last Saturday's scrimmage when he named Austin Allen as the backup quarterback, it doesn't mean the coaches are displeased with Peavey.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited about what Rafe's doing," Bielema said. "Rafe's got a very bright future here."
Sports on 08/22/2014