State of Hogs: Allen Brothers

Zak Clark was sitting in the rocking chair the last three seasons, calling anything he wanted with Brandon Allen and Austin Allen at quarterback.

Life is different around Fayetteville High School. There are no more Allen boys to play quarterback. Offensive coordinator Zak Clark has known the day was coming.

"We have been dreading it for awhile," Clark said in May. "It had to happen eventually."

Clark, former Arkansas quarterback, has had either Brandon or Austin Allen under center for the Bulldogs the last three seasons. Brandon had two more years ahead of Clark's arrival.

"I got here for Brandon's senior season, then have had Austin the last two years," Clark said. "I'll say that having them as your quarterback was a luxury.

"As long as we've had one of them throwing the ball, there was never a question about whether or not we could call any pass anywhere. Simply, they could make every throw."

Some throws are out of the playbook for the coming season. Clark knows that Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, the quarterbacks coach, is getting something special as far as talent and arm strength.

"The hash marks for the high school rules are one third wider than even college," Clark said, noting that college hash marks are further apart than NFL. "So when you are on one hash in high school, the field comeback throw to the (wide side of the) field for us was something we took for granted. We have had to change things this year. Brandon and Austin could always make that a routine throw and it's a tough one for high school quarterbacks.

"It would be good if we could get one more Allen boy. Unfortunately, the last of Bobby and Marcella's kids is a daughter. She's a great athlete and we'd be set if she was a son."

Clark has been comparing the Allen boys for quite some time.

"Like it or not, the comparisons are going to come up," Clark said. "The thing you remember when you think about them, I got Brandon after he'd started for two years. My first year here was his senior year. Then, I had Austin as a starter as a junior, through the growing process and developmental stages that I didn't see with Brandon.

"So I watched Austin play his way through some mistakes. It wasn't that Austin didn't have the physical ability, it was just that he had to go through the mistakes and learning of playing games."

It didn't take long for Austin to become polished. "We started to make that run (to the first of two state titles) about week eight and I knew then that Austin was really special," Clark said. "I knew by then that both of them were really special. You saw Austin's arm get stronger and I'd have to say at that point that the two of them were the best I'd ever seen at that level.

"Brandon was polished. He did have to learn a new offense with new terminology after we put that in before his senior year, but he got it very quickly."

There are differences.

"I think Brandon might be a little better foot athlete," Clark said. "He's going to make more yards with his feet. But Austin is very good in the pocket, moving around. He's not going to take off and out run anyone, but he will escape just long enough to get the ball off and make plays that way.

"I'll say that Austin impressed me with his toughness in the way he'd stay in there and take it on the chin. Both of them are very tough. I have seen them both look down the barrel and deliver the ball."

That came from growing up in a coaching environment. Father Bobby, who won a Virginia state championship as a quarterback, has been on the UA staff since 1998. He's currently Director of High School Relations on Bret Bielema's staff after coaching cornerbacks last year.

"All of these kids, every one of them, know how to compete in athletics," Clark said of the four Allen kids. "I think they learned that growing up in that home. That was most enjoyable. I'm telling you, not all we get have that.

"But they've been in athletics and taught what it means to be a competitor.

"I know the demands of a college coach. They work long hours and are gone a lot. But Bobby was around. He'd get over here for games or for 10 minutes of a practice. And it always was obvious how much the kids loved their dad. He played a huge role in their lives.

"Again, we don't always see the dads involved in the lives of our players. It was clear that Bobby was with Brandon and Austin. He taught them how to play tough and be competitive in everything they did. I'd call it the old school mentality."

There was a drawback to Allen's presence. Clark said if dad wasn't a UA coach, more would have recruited the two quarterbacks.

"I always felt like the recruiting services didn't give them enough stars," Clark said. "And that's because a lot of schools didn't really spend any time recruiting them because they knew they were going to Arkansas to be with their dad.

"Austin was a little more open in the process and a few teams did check or come by, but I don't think they ever believed they were going to have a real chance. Everybody made calls. But they would have gotten more trips and more recruiting stars.

"I'm happy because I'm a big Hog fan and they are going to be right here. But if their name wasn't Allen, you might have seen more publicity on the national scene."

Clark said Chaney is getting hard workers as well as talent. He'll be watching as Chaney puts them through their paces.

"I've been over there a little bit to watch and talked to Coach Chaney some," Clark said. "I like what they are doing, their passing game concepts. I'm looking forward to the next few seasons."

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