Clay Henry is the publisher and executive editor of Hawgs Illustrated. He is a voter for the Heisman Trophy and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
State of the Hogs: Austin Allen doing things that made Brandon better
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen throws a pass during practice Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Austin Allen looks like the quarterback with the best arm on the team. He has strength, touch and the ability to throw on the run into a tight space, or with a soft toss to a cutting tight end.
The things that I saw in the scrimmage Saturday reminded me remarkably of what I saw Brandon Allen do well in the second half of last season when Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle were cutting up linebackers on the bootleg calls from offensive coordinator Dan Enos.
Throwing on the run was something Brandon Allen did so well last year, going right or left. It appears younger brother Austin has mastered that throw, too. It's something an educated onlooker at practice Tuesday commented about. It was worth exploring when Austin came to the interview room after practice.
“I've worked hard on that,” Allen said. “Coach Enos and I watched the cutups from last season over and over this summer. I could see how good those bootlegs and waggles were for Brandon. We had great success with those plays.
“So I threw five days a week this summer. Those throws were heavy in what I worked on. I think just working on the throws while on the run has helped me. If you work on it, you are going to get better. I think I have gotten better.”
The arm is stronger, too.
“I think so,” Allen said. “When you work hard, it's going to get stronger. But I think working on the specific throws like those bootlegs has helped me. I know Coach Enos likes them.
“Those are the plays that really put the defense in a bad position. You fake the run, the (linebackers come up) and it's so much easier for the tight ends to get behind them. That's a hard play on the defense.”
The key is that the run has to be potent. It looked that with Rawleigh Williams and Devwah Whaley on Saturday. That was something that pleased the offensive linemen - Dan Skipper and Jake Raulerson in the interview room Tuesday. The duo makes up the first-team tackles entering the week.
“We did some good things,” Skipper said. “We are not perfect yet. We did some things really well, but there are still some (missed assignments) and we are going to keep working to get consistent.”
Skipper has been at left tackle over the last week, a position he played two years ago. He started at right tackle last season. He said he isn't concerned about the side. It's all the same to the 6-foot-10 senior.
“You have to concentrate on your kick backs (in pass sets),” Skipper said. “The hand placement is different from one side to the other. But it didn't take me long. I kinda thought they might do it, so it wasn't a surprise when they asked me. I said, 'OK.'
“I don't care what side I play. It's about doing what's best for the team and winning. We all feel the same way."
Skipper said the linemen don't care where they play. Arkansas coaches have mixed and matched the line throughout camp, including Tuesday when Jalen Merrick got first-team reps at right guard.
“It looked like a good move," Skipper said. “I'm not saying we were perfect today, but it was pretty good. I had a feeling there would be some more shuffling and there was today.
“We've had a few at right tackle, but Jake Raulerson has played well there the last few days. He's so versatile. He can play all of the spots, I think.”
Raulerson is starting to get the feel of the right side, whether it be guard or tackle.
“I'll go where the team needs me,” said Raulerson, the transfer from Texas. “I'm getting comfortable. By no means am I perfect yet. I may never be perfect, but I'll keep trying. I've played right tackle before. As a matter of fact, I started in the Texas Bowl (vs. Arkansas) as a freshman. That was about 30 pounds ago.”
Allen is smiling as the magic of head coach Bret Bielema and offensive line coach Kurt Anderson comes out. Those two coaches have been good at finding the right combinations in the O-line through the years.
“They are trying to get the best five out there, the right combination,” Allen said. “It's a shuffle. It's been different all camp. It's a little puzzle, different pieces coming together. We've gotten better. They seem to be learning Coach Anderson's schemes and calls.
“I am comfortable with those guys. I know what we have and it's pretty good. I'm real comfortable with Dan Skipper at left tackle. This is his fourth year to start and I'm good with him there.”
Raulerson was asked about the combination of Williams and Whaley at running back. They both burst through holes up front in the scrimmage.
“They are amazing,” Raulerson said. “There were times that we got an opening for a second and a half. They were through there. Gone. We didn't get them a lot of time, but they are quick and fast.”
Williams said it was plenty of time.
“We did have some good holes,” Williams said. “It was a good day for all of the running backs.”
The sophomore is glad to share time with Whaley, the true freshman.
“That's what we do here,” he said. “It's Running Back U. That means more than one. We are a team. I knew that was what we'd do. We will need everyone.”
Williams was tackled to the ground for the first time since last October when he suffered a neck injury that required surgery after the Auburn game.
“It was a good feeling,” he said. “It was good to be back playing football. I wanted to be tackled, but then I was disappointed they got to tackle me at all.”
There was a big moment when he had to power for some extra inches on the goal line on a fourth-and-1 play. Williams scored.
“That is the kind of run that you just have to get in any way you can,” he said. “You know what you are facing on that kind of play. I knew what to do.”
So does Austin Allen. He's going to fake it to those backs, roll out and find his tight ends. It looks like he's got those throws on the move down just like his brother.
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