FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas searched nationwide to find their quarterback for 2011, but the Razorbacks didn't need to look any further than across the street.
Fayetteville quarterback Brandon Allen signed with Arkansas on Wednesday, giving the Razorbacks one of the most decorated signal callers in the state's history. Though he isn't rated extremely high (he's a three-star by Scout.com), Arkansas coaches feel Allen is the perfect fit.
Perhaps one of the reasons Allen wasn't rated higher by the recruiting services was because he was only offered by the hometown school. Allen made it a point for other schools to know he wanted to play for the Razorbacks, where his father, Bobby, is an assistant coach.
"When the discussions started the coaches asked me point-blank, 'Do you think Brandon is a Division-I athlete,'" Bobby Allen said. "I sat back for a minute and said, 'Yeah, he's a Division-I athlete. Now is he an SEC quarterback? I can't answer that, but y'all will have to go through the evaluation process and make the determination if you think he's good enough.'
"What I'm excited about for Brandon is that he did it on his own merit in what the coaches saw through camps and film, and not just the fact that he was my son."
Allen was the first quarterback in the state's largest classification to pass for more than 10,000 yards in a career. Allen also tossed 98 career touchdowns as a three-year starter, helping lead the Bulldogs to a state runner-up finish as a senior.
Where Allen improved most as a prep player was in limiting his turnovers. As a sophomore Allen threw 18 interceptions but cut that number to zero last regular season. That earned Allen some of the state's highest honors. He won the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club Player of the Year and was the recipient of the Landers Award as the state's top player, despite Parade All-Americans Brey Cook and Kiehl Frazier residing in the same signing class.
"Every kid can get in the Shotgun and throw screens, bubbles and all that because that's what is in now-a-days," McGee said. "My responsibility is to train quarterbacks to be NFL quarterbacks. Doing that I have to teach them how to understand defensive structure, protection settings and getting the route set depending on the defense - really how to play the position.
"In evaluating him, having him in the meeting room and quizzing him, what I really try to do is teach him something. Then I had him sit down and recite to me what I just taught him to see if he was a fast and willing learner. That's important to us and he's got it."
McGee said understanding the coaching staff and the culture of the football program will help, too.
"When he steps out there in the fall, he'll know what's going on," McGee said. "And he's going to understand the way we operate. There is going to be no I have to get to know him and he has to get to know me. He's not going to get homesick. He understands the fact that this offense is hard to learn and you have to be a student of the game to play quarterback for us.
"I had a position meeting when he was here on his visit where he and his mom were in there, and I showed him how tough it was and showed him how we game-planned. Then he went out and watched Ryan (Mallett) and how you have to get to the check and be tough enough to make the check. I just tried to show him how hard it was going to be for him and he's for it. He's got something about him that he's a winner. We're fortunate to have him."
Brandon might not be the only Allen the Razorbacks end up with under-center before it's all said and done. Austin Allen, the younger of the two brothers, is expected to step into the starting role for the Bulldogs next season.
When he's asked if his younger son has Division-I talent, Bobby Allen said he'll likely be able to retrieve the same words from the last time.
"I do," Bobby Allen said. "Austin has got some room to grow and he's got to get the experience Brandon has, but those two have been in my backyard a long time. Austin is going to have to step up and accept the challenge but I believe he has a chance."