Analyzing Arkansas' QB play through 3 games

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Ty Storey (4) makes a pass during the second quarter of a football game, Saturday, September 8, 2018 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Ty Storey (4) makes a pass during the second quarter of a football game, Saturday, September 8, 2018 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.

FAYETTEVILLE — Whether or not Cole Kelley and/or Ty Storey could adequately run the offense Chad Morris prefers was one of the biggest question marks as Arkansas entered the 2018 season.

Through three weeks, the two have failed to increase fans’ confidence in them.

Storey thrived in relief of Kelley in the season opener against Eastern Illinois, throwing for 261 yards and three touchdowns. He sparkled in the second quarter, leading the Razorbacks’ offense on four scoring drives in five chances. He hit Jordan Jones and La’Michael Pettway beautifully on deep balls, which led to quick-strike scores.

The following week, however, in his first career start, Storey was shaky at best against Colorado State. He threw a pair of interceptions and was inaccurate on a handful of other throws. Enter Kelley, who jumpstarted the offense with two touchdowns in as many throws after halftime. But late in the game, even he struggled to guide the offense down the field in crucial situations.

Morris walked into Week 3 hoping to settle on Kelley as the team’s starting quarterback. With that, Kelley delivered his worst performance of his career in throwing four interceptions and had a number of other passes tipped or dropped by defenders. He struggled mightily with accuracy, particularly on passes of 15-plus yards. And Storey was a no-show.

Monday, Morris declared Storey the starter this weekend at No. 9 Auburn, an unenviable position as the Tigers pose an enormous challenge. Auburn’s defense is physical and among the fastest in the Southeastern Conference. Storey has played in Jordan-Hare Stadium before, but in mop-up duty in the infamous 56-3 loss in 2016. Composure will be essential.

It is also important to review how Arkansas got to this point with its quarterback situation. The coaching staff has alternated Kelley and Storey as the starter for the fourth consecutive week due to inconsistent performances. I took a stab at watching each pass and charting it as accurate, inaccurate or interceptable – throws that could potentially result in a turnover but did not.

Here is a week-by-week look at their performances:

Week 1 vs. Eastern Illinois

Cole Kelley

At or behind LOS: 1/1, 0 yards

Passes 1-5 yards: 5/5, 31 yards

Passes 6-10 yards: 2/3, 49 yards, TD

Passes 11-15 yards: 1/1, 12 yards

Passes 15+ yards: 0/2

Accurate passes: 10/12

Inaccurate passes: 1

Interceptable passes: 1

Throwaway: N/A

3rd down passing: 3/4

Kelley did not do anything spectacular in this game, but he also did little to put the offense in danger and was accurate on a majority of his throws. Film review shows he elected to target receivers on short and intermediate routes, and found some success there. His one touchdown pass, a 42-yarder to Austin Cantrell, came on a 10-yard pass. Cantrell picked up 32 yards after the catch. Kelley's one interceptable pass came on Arkansas' first possession when attempting to hit La'Michael Pettway on a comeback route in the red zone. A defender with better hands would have come up with a turnover. Kelley was also solid on third down, which has since proven to be an issue.

Ty Storey

At or behind LOS: N/A

Passes 1-5 yards: 5/6, 30 yards

Passes 6-10 yards: 1/3, 11 yards

Passes 11-15 yards: 1/1, 14 yards, TD

Passes 15+ yards: 5/7, 206 yards, 2 TD

Accurate passes: 12/17

Inaccurate passes: 3

Interceptable passes: 1

Throwaway: 1

3rd down passing: 3/6

Storey was also consistent hitting short passes, but the story from this performance was his accuracy on downfield throws. Four of his five completions on passes traveling 15-plus yards went to Jordan Jones and Pettway. Chase Harrell made an impressive catch on a 36-yard play as well. Storey's ability to hit receivers down the field was impressive given questions about his arm strength. Those doubts may still be there, but they periodically went by the wayside in this game. He threw only one interceptable pass, a ball in which he targeted Harrell in double coverage.

Week 2 at Colorado State

Ty Storey

At or behind LOS: 3/4, 7 yards

Passes 1-5 yards: 1/4, 19 yards, INT

Passes 6-10 yards: 1/1, 10 yards

Passes 11-15 yards: 0/1

Passes 15+ yards: 0/2, INT

Accurate passes: 6/13

Inaccurate passes: 4

Interceptable passes: N/A

Throwaway: 1

3rd down passing: 0/4

Storey's first start began well. His first pass was completed to Austin Cantrell for a 10-yard gain and a first down. After that, numbers show he completed just one pass beyond the line of scrimmage – a 19-yard gain to tight end Jeremy Patton. Patton caught the pass just one yard downfield and picked up extra yardage thanks to solid perimeter blocking. Storey also threw three more inaccurate balls than in Week 1. In one instance, Storey threw behind Jones on a routine slant route, drawing a frustrated reaction from Morris on the sideline. Pettway was unable to adjust to a ball thrown behind him on Storey's first interception. Third down was a problem, too. His 0-for-4 mark on 3rd down passing situations brought his season total to 3-for-10.

Cole Kelley

At or behind LOS: 3/3, 61 yards, TD

Passes 1-5 yards: N/A

Passes 6-10 yards: 1/2, 6 yards

Passes 11-15 yards: 1/1, 12 yards

Passes 15+ yards: 1/2, 25 yards, TD

Accurate passes: 8/9

Inaccurate passes: N/A

Interceptable passes: N/A

Throwaway: 1

3rd down passing: 1/3

Kelley's downfield accuracy was much better against the Rams than the week prior. Kelley hit his first pass of the day for a 25-yard score to Pettway, then he narrowly missed another score on an explosive play to Jones. Ball placement was solid on both. The only gripe would be that he needed to place the ball to Jones 1-2 feet more toward the field. Kelley benefited as well from TJ Hammonds' 64-yard run on a shuffle pass. The final two passes behind the line of scrimmage to Jonathan Nance and De'Vion Warren set Arkansas back three yards. Coaches attempted to keep things pretty simple for Kelley in this game. His lone completion between 11-15 yards came on the final play of the game.

Week 3 vs. North Texas

Cole Kelley

At or behind LOS: 1/1, 6 yards

Passes 1-5 yards: 5/6, 34 yards

Passes 6-10 yards: 6/9, 73 yards, INT

Passes 11-15 yards: 2/2, 29 yards

Passes 15+ yards: 2/16, 43 yards, 3 INT

Accurate passes: 17/35

Inaccurate passes: 8

Interceptable passes: 5

Throwaway: 1

3rd down passing: 2/8

Things really unraveled for Kelley in his second start of the season. His accuracy waned mightily, most notably on throws of 15-plus yards. He completed just two such passes, both to freshman receiver Mike Woods, who showed flashes of great playmaking ability. Watching Saturday's game, we knew Kelley took plenty of shots down the field, but I came away stunned at the final numbers and how insistent he was on taking chances. Miscommunication with receivers played a role in the inaccurate balls and interceptable passes. That will need correcting regardless who is taking snaps. If there was a positive of any kind, it was the intermediate passing game. Kelley did look comfortable on quick hitters along the sidelines to Pettway and Woods, and over the middle of the field to Jared Cornelius. I would imagine this is more along the lines of what coaches have in mind for Storey this weekend. Keep things simple. Kelley's interception within that area came on a ball tipped at the line. Had Cheyenne O'Grady engaged his defensive end matchup on the play, the ball is not tipped and Arkansas is close to first-down yardage. The struggles on third down were hard to watch, too. He is 6-for-15 on passes when attempting to keep drives alive this season. As a team, Arkansas is 10-for-29 and holds a cumulative quarterback rating of 81.3.

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