Purple Pride

Fayetteville High quarterback Austin Allen (6-2, 217), a recent Arkansas commitment, was named the top signal caller at Friday's Nike Football Training Camp in Memphis - something not surprising at all to Zak Clark, the former Purple Bulldog and Razorback quarterback and current FHS offensive coordinator.

The least surprised person that Fayetteville star and Arkansas commitment Austin Allen was named the top quarterback at Friday's Nike Football Training Camp in Memphis was the Purple Bulldogs' offensive coordinator.

After all former Fayetteville High and Razorback – and current Purple Bulldog OC – Zak Clark has watched Allen evolve over the couple of years.

Clark watched Allen throw for a Class 7A state record 4,150 yards last season, tie his brother Brandon's school record of 46 touchdown passes in a single season and lead his team to the state championship.

"He is so integral to what we do," Clark said. "We are going to throw the ball around. Obviously he is very talented, but he is a great kid, fun to be around, fun to coach. He listens and he takes coaching and the guys on the team love him. He's got the kind of leadership and personality guys just rally around."

Allen and his teammates – linebacker Brooks Ellis (6-3, 215) and safety Alex Brignoni (6-2, 195) – all committed to the Razorbacks two weeks ago and that's pleasing to Clark, who worked Saturday's Northwest Arkansas Passing Academy in Springdale along with fellow former Razorbacks.

"The recruiting process these days has gotten so big and there is so much information out there that – if it is not handle right – can be really stressful and become a distraction," Clark said. "Hopefully now that they know where they are going to go and are comfortable and happy with it, they can just concentrate on the season and focus on playing ball."

Fayetteville's season ended on Dec. 3 in storybook fashion in the state championship game at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.

Allen's last pass of the season – a two-point conversion one instead of settling for a game-tying PAT – lifted the Purple Bulldogs over unbeaten Bentonville 29-28 in overtime.

"To win a game and it be the state championship and to do it on the last play, they make movies about stuff like that," Clark said. "That pass obviously won it and the excitement about the ball is caught was just amazing as the place goes nuts. But the thing that gets you there and is the most enjoyable thing about coaching and being around young kids is the steady improvement."

Bentonville had beaten Fayetteville 41-6 on Sept. 23 in a regular season game.

"In week four when we played those guys, where were nowhere near them," Clark said. "I mean we got mercy ruled, got beat by 35 and the score wasn't even that close. To see the improvement our guys made truly was the most special thing about it."

It happened on a play that the Purple Bulldogs had run during their last practice of every week during the 2011 season.

"We ran it all year on Thursday when we kind of go through our special plays," Clark said. "We ran it for 14 straight years. It is a good play, kind of a trick ‘em play. Ironically, Bentonville scored on it earlier in the game."

Allen, the 17th-best quarterback in the country and four-star prospect according to Scout.com, became the starter as a junior as his brother moved on to the Razorbacks.

"This was his first rattle out of the cage this year and after about game eight or nine, he really mentally went to the next level – as far as protection checks, run game stuff and different coverages," Clark said. "Not that that was a weakness, but it was something he needed to improve on. When we went on our stretch run the last four or five games, he was just lights out."

Clark admits there are still some things Allen can work on.

"His mechanics continue to get better and better," Clark said. "Sometimes his body and mechanics get out of whack just a little bit, but that is bouncing between baseball and football and that is going to happen. He is going to tighten some things up."

The Purple Bulldogs will visit Pulaski Academy for a scrimmage Aug. 22 in Little Rock before opening the season against Memphis University High on Aug. 30 at Razorback Stadium.

This will be the fifth straight season that an Allen will be the starting quarterback at Fayetteville.

It will also be the final one unless the Purple Bulldog staff can get little sister Daniela to come out.

"We are running out of Allens," Clark joked. "We may get Daniela to come out and play quarterback because they say she can throw it pretty well and I know she is the toughest one of the bunch.

"I wish he had two more years, but we are going to just enjoy this last one we have with him," Clark added. "Then Arkansas is going to get a great one."


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