Chaney: Fans got glimpse in spring
Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, right, talks with quarterback Brandon Allen prior to a game against Rutgers on Sept. 21, 2013 at Highpoint Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, N.J.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Fans in a panic over the Arkansas Razorbacks' lack of offensive sizzle in the April 19 Red-White game need not stress too much, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said.
"I really try not to overevaluate a spring football game," Chaney said last week. "For the most part, we watered it down as much as we possibly could to be able to function and have a game. We didn't show a lot. We were boring, but we got through it."
The Razorbacks installed new concepts throughout the spring, but stuck to basics for the spring game, which was televised. The 61-22 final score made it sound like an offensive bonanza, but the score was deceiving. Two of the touchdowns by the winning Red team came on interception returns and a third came when die-hard fan Canaan Sandy was handed a ball at midfield and jogged into the end zone with no defensive resistance.
First-team quarterback Brandon Allen went 5 of 11 for 21 yards with 2 interceptions, both on tipped passes, as the offense struggled in the first half.
Coach Bret Bielema and Chaney played Allen longer through the third quarter than they had originally planned and offered more variety in the play-calling to help spark the offense. Allen finished 12 of 21 for 108 yards with a touchdown to go along with the two interceptions. The Red-team starters wound up with 355 total yards on 45 snaps, 7.9 yards per play.
Still, "I wish Brandon had performed a little bit better than he did," Chaney said. "I look at the spring game like a practice, and I think Brandon had had about seven or eight exceptional practices in a row, and I don't think that was one of his better practices. But I know collectively throughout the spring how much better he became as a football player."
Redshirt freshman Austin Allen finished 11 of 17 for 139 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He completed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Eric Hawkins down the left sideline against the first-team defense on the final play of the first half, and went 3 for 3 for 45 yards in his lone series with the starters, a 70-yard drive capped by his 33-yard touchdown throw to Cody Hollister.
Austin Allen's performance was encouraging, and better than his previous spring scrimmages, but it did not vault him into a pitched battle with his brother Brandon, a redshirt junior.
"I think most people understand you'd rather have a junior playing than a freshman," Chaney said. "And if you believe in that philosophy, then they ought to believe we'll be a little better collectively offensively, because most of them are back and they're a year older."
"We just didn't do a lot," Chaney said. "Didn't want to do a lot. We wanted the kids to go out there and play fast, have fun and enjoy the ballgame, enjoy the day."
Chaney said the Hogs came into the spring knowing its passing game was flawed and improvement needed to be made.
"We couldn't throw a forward pass and complete it," he said. "So we had to work on it all spring as a point of emphasis."
The way Chaney looks at it, "a completion is a by-product of a good decision by a quarterback and an accurately thrown ball and good hands by a wide receiver. All keeping in mind the protection has to be there for them.
"And as we evaluate those four aspects as we left the spring, we felt pretty content that we were getting better as a football team. We felt like the quarterback's decisions were where they needed to be, for the most part."
The quarterback group consisted of the Allen brothers and true freshman Rafe Peavey after AJ Derby and Damon Mitchell switched positions about halfway through spring, made strides, Chaney said.
"The young one, Rafe, gets a little lost once in a while, and Austin is not as good as Brandon," he said. "But relatively speaking, we were better. Brandon's accuracy improved considerably from last fall (49.6 percent) until we got done this spring. And the drop percentages at wide receiver were lower.
"So you add those components up, you'll push your completion percentages up, therefore, hopefully being able to move the ball down."
Sports on 05/13/2014