Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney sees a world of difference between the Brandon Allen of today and the one who struggled all of last season. It's about maturity and polish with the junior quarterback, now the clear leader of the offense with plenty of help from the likes of Keon Hatcher, Demetrius Wilson, Brey Cook and a cast of others.
Chaney didn't mind handling questions about the passing game, something he says is vastly improved. But he said it was too early to talk much about the big uglies in the offensive line "since we are still practicing in underwear."
That's a reference to the first two days of NCAA mandated no-pads practice that the Arkansas football team finished Tuesday, much of it on the grass practice fields south of Walker Pavilion. The Hogs open up at SEC defending champs Auburn on Aug. 30 on a grass surface.
“We got a little better," Chaney said of the improvement from Monday to Tuesday. "I was excited about it, the kids worked hard. It’s been a good first two days, been a lot of fun so far.
“We got a little better. I was excited about it, the kids worked hard. It’s been a good first two days, been a lot of fun so far.
"It looks like we have good carry over going in. We’re on two days of installation, we’ll see tomorrow when we start putting in a little bit more burden on some of those young kids with a little bit of knowledge, it will be interesting to see how they pick things up. That’s the key, how quick can they pick it up and how quick can they help us win. It’s a fun part right now and so far so good.”
Chaney said there were a few more dropped passes than in Monday's workout, that was nearly perfect. But the center/quarterback exchange cleaned up Tuesday with no misses after two on Monday.
"What I've seen from Brandon Allen is very exciting," Chaney said. "I couldn't be more pleased with the way he's executed the offense. His mechanics are cleaned up. He's footwork is great. He had a couple of balls sail, but he is a different young man than what I saw last fall."
Chaney also praised Austin Allen and Rafe Peavey for their work through two practices, noting he can finally hear the two freshmen when they call plays in the huddle or execute checks at the line of scrimmage. And, he was excited about the news of Ty Storey's decision to sign his financial letter with Arkansas last weekend.
"Both (Austin and Rafe) have more confidence in the offense," he said. "They are both better than they are in the spring. Austin is as loud as I've heard him and Rafe is getting louder."
On Storey, Chaney said, "I've been around Ty a lot and he knows who is open and delivers the ball. I'm personally happy that he's the first to sign in this class, to get a bell cow quarterback first is important."
There were plenty of questions about an impressive newcomer group in the offensive line, but Chaney said, "I don't want to say much about them. All we've done is in shorts, underwear. We will know about linemen when we put on pads. I will say they look athletic. I can tell you that Sebastian Tretola is a giant. Cameron Jefferson is athletic. Frank Ragnow is athletic and smart. I think our team is in shape and in condition. As you'd expect, Coach (Ben) Herbert handed off a team that is in good shape."
One that made the biggest strides in that department this summer is sophomore offensive guard Denver Kirkland, about 25 pounds lighter than he was last spring when a pulled hamstring hampered his conditioning. Kirkland spoke of the weekly speed walking up the massive Cleveland Street hill with Herbert leading the way.
"That is about a mile up," Kirkland said. "We covered it in about six minutes. We may have been walking, but that was some fast walking."
Quarterback Brandon Allen manned the truck that hauled them back down the hill. He said his truck brakes were tested on the trip down.
"I had to ride the breaks," he said. "That was four guys in the cab, another four or five in the back of the truck. It was riding kind of low on the tires. Our guys did a great job this summer."
Kirkland said the trips down were too quick.
"I don't remember too much about the ride down," Kirkland said. "I think (Allen) has a nice ride, a quarterback's ride. I think he does because I can't remember. It was over pretty quick."
It's become clear that Hatcher, the Owasso, Okla., four-star product, has bonded with Allen since last season. Both were slowed by injuries last fall and are now clicking like never before. Chaney has said that where you see Allen, Hatcher is sure to be close.
“We’re working each and every day," the junior receiver said. "Me and Brandon have gotten a lot closer over the past couple months and that’s my boy. We’re ready to ride.
Hatcher is happy with the start to fall camp.
“It was great," Hatcher said. "We came out today ready to work, get better and improve from yesterday. Just trying to grasp the offense even more than we have this offseason and get better and get ready for August 30.”
Hatcher knows the Hogs have a lot to prove this fall.
"People were down on us and a couple of people were down on Brandon," Hatcher said. "I guess a lot of people were down. He's got his confidence and we see what's in the works. Mark my word, we are coming.
"I've been his right hand man in the last year. I've been through what he's been through and going to be there with him through thick and thin."
The extra time with Allen, Hatcher said, was necessary to know the offense from a quarterback's perspective.
"We had to get this offense down," he said. "I think all of the receiving crew got better. But I wanted to do everything Brandon did this summer."
Allen called it "impressive." He said it was Demetrius Wilson, the senior in the wideout group, along with Hatcher.
"Keon and Demetrius, the older guys, are definitely the leaders of that group," Allen said. "Keon is a little more vocal. But both of them are leading in their way, by example. They have made sure to show the young guys that this is the way we do it here, work.
"Keon has been to all of the stuff we've done. Some days, it's just going to be quarterbacks doing some things, throwing to each other, or in the film room. Keon wanted to be there. He wanted to see what we see, learn it through our eyes like a quarterback. He's done it all right besides the quarterbacks this summer."
Tuesday Grid Update: Chaney Pleased
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