Healing Up

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema updated the status of starting quarterback Brandon Allen and several other key injured players during his time on Wednesday's SEC Teleconference.

Don't expect to see Arkansas starting quarterback Brandon Allen play until doctors tell Razorback head coach Bret Bielema that his sophomore signal caller is 100 percent.

That's what Bielema said on Wednesday's SEC Teleconference, a notion which would seemingly make his chances for playing this weekend at Rutgers very remote.

But the Arkansas head coach would not rule him out in a move that college coaches love to use as gamesmanship.

"I thought that might be the question of the day," Bielema said when asked immediately about Allen's status. "He has definitely gotten better. I know he was a lot better yesterday and we filled out our roster for the trip that we send to the airlines today. He is definitely going with us and it will be just a game-time decision.

"He hasn't been able to practice yet, but the good news is with this type of situation we have been able to get a lot of quality reps for our next quarterback, which would be (junior) A.J. Derby, and (true freshman) Austin Allen after that.

"It will be a work in progress to get to Saturday and if he (Brandon Allen) can't go then the next man will be in and we'll take that challenge," Bielema added.

Allen was hurt in the first quarter of last week's 24-3 home win over Southern Miss and Arkansas officials will only say it is a shoulder injury.

They have also not confirmed reports that it is AC joint injury that would cause Allen to miss two to four weeks.

"I just don't want to get into details," Bielema said. "It wasn't anything structurally and it is way beyond any discussion that I can carry as a head football coach. He definitely hurt his shoulder and because it is his throwing arm, that's a concern."

Bielema did note that Allen would not need much practice time when he was ready to play, but also he loved what he was seeing in practice from Derby and Austin Allen, Brandon's younger brother.

"The thing that I am really benefiting from here is (Brandon Allen) being a prepared starter for three games," Bielema said. "I know he only played a limited amount in that third game, but he definitely is a guy that gets better with every practice. But don't get me wrong, I think he is a guy that if you felt like Saturday he could roll that we would go with him.

"But on the same account, he hasn't practiced yet and the one thing that I don't want to do is put a quarterback who is a sophomore and who I think has a very bright future (in harm's way)," Bielema added.

"I love how AJ is handling practice – and Austin to be quite honest," Bielema continued. "So unless the doctors can guarantee me 100 percent there is no risk whatsoever and BA can look me in the eye and say ‘look I can go, Coach' and doesn't blink, that is the only way we would let him go."

Bielema also gave an update on starting tackles Grady Ollison and David Hurd, who both suffered injuries in last Saturday's game.

"Grady and Hurd practiced yesterday and took every rep in team (periods)," Bielema said. "I think Hurd for sure doesn't have any issues. That was kind of an aggravation from a prior injury last spring.

"Ollison, just off the training reports this morning was much better and he should be involved in everything today," Bielema added. "We just kept him in the team periods (on Tuesday)."

He noted that wide receiver Keon Hatcher looks ready to go after missing the last two games with a hamstring issue and that safety Rohan Gaines was improving daily.

"Keon Hatcher looked great yesterday," Bielema said. "He is full go and engaged in our game plan. I expect him to be 100 percent. He was yesterday. Unless something changes between now and then, he should be heavily involved in our game plan.

"Rohan Gaines practiced yesterday and I would say looked as good as you could expect, Bielema said. "He definitely has fresh legs. Other than the brace on his knee, you wouldn't know that anything is bothering him. That is a very fortunate thing because he is a big part and gives us a lot of depth at that position."

Rutgers also has its quarterback injury issues with starter Gary Nova suffering a concussion in last week's 28-10 win over Eastern Michigan.

Nova has practiced on a limited basis with back-up Chas Dodd getting starters reps in practice this week.

"I think as a head coach you know that whatever quarterback steps back there, the offense isn't going to change that much," Bielema said. "I know they didn't throw the ball much with Dodd in there, but both are very good players.

"If Chas plays, Chas plays," Bielema said. "I know he is a competitor and a guy that you can see really enjoys playing in the game. If he (Nova) is healthy, I am sure he will be out there, but we really can't control that. All we do is worry about the formations that we line up against, the personnel that we see and obviously execute our plan."

Bielema seems excited about the challenge of his team's first road game of the season.

"Very excited to go into hostile territory for the first time and I think our players have learned to embrace things that they find difficult – whether it be a heat factor, an injury, whatever," Bielema said. "It is a chance to be in adversity and if we embrace it, accept it and make the most of it then usually good things happen."

"It was good to get a W last week," Bielema added. "I thought our guys played a four-quarter game with the best quarter being in the fourth quarter. We were able to close out the game and I know one of my favorite things is to take a knee at the end of the game. To me that is the best play in football – the victory formation.

"We have got some guys banged up, but they are getting healthier by the day and excited to go out to Rutgers and have a chance to play a very, very good football team," Bielema said. "They have the leading rusher in the country, (it's) a tremendous challenge, but one our guys are excited to play in."

Bielema met Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood through a mutual friend – former Scarlet Knights assistant coach Rob Smith.

"Coach (Flood) is a very easy guy to like," Bielema said. "He is obviously very upfront, straight forward and runs a very good football program. Smitty and I are very good friends and he thinks very highly of Kyle and everything that he has done in his career.

"It is easy to see why," Bielema added. "He is very organized, very detailed and seems to play his kind of football and is a guy that I look forward to getting to know in the profession. There are a lot of good guys out there, but he is obviously one of the best.

Bret Bielema

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