Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen has gained a lot of respect for his play at the end of last season in leading the Razorbacks to three wins in their last four games.
That was one reason he was one of 40 college players invited to the Manning Passing Academy that was held recently on the campus of Nicholls State in Thibodeaux, La.
“It was a lot of fun,” Allen said on The Paul Finebaum Show. “I got to meet a lot of great guys down there. There were a lot of great quarterbacks from around the SEC and around the nation that we were able to hang out and go through drills with the Mannings.
“It was all very enjoyable.”
Allen got the chance to work with former NFL quarterback Archie Manning and his two sons – Peyton and Eli, who are currently NFL quarterbacks.
“I had met Archie at the Sugar Bowl a few years back, but I have never gotten to meet Payton or Eli until then,” Allen said. “Both are great guys that are really technical and you can see why they are so good at their craft.
“I was able to take a few drills back from what they were doing. It was just a really, really good experience for me to meet them and meet the elite of the elite and to see how they work.”
Allen, who passed for 2,285 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions last season, joined fellow SEC quarterbacks Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) and Josh Dobbs (Tennessee) at the camp.
“It is really difficult to meet other guys that you play in the SEC, but places like the Manning Camp and other places that you can meet people, it just makes the games more fun,” Allen said.
“It make it more fun when you know the guys that you are going against…I think meeting those guys and knowing how they work and how they are both great leaders for their team and I am really looking forward to playing those guys.”
Arkansas was picked to finish fourth in the SEC West at the league’s annual media days and no player was picked on the first team offense or defense.
"If anything all it does is fuel our fire,” Allen said. “It really does because we know the talent we have and we know in our conference it is so difficult to win a single game with all the different teams we have to play and their talent.
“But we believe on our team that we have the talent and the ability. We know it is about coming in on that Saturday and putting it all together for one game.
“How it is in our conference is everybody can beat everybody so our question is ‘why not us?’
Conversely, a lot of media speculation has Arkansas flourishing this season.
“Our biggest thing is all the outside expectations that we have – and we have heard nine wins, 10 wins and all that – inside the program we have higher expectations and we expect to be perfect and to win each and every game we go into on Saturday,” Allen said.
“That is just how we go about business.”
Allen said that Arkansas’ players have a genuine desire to win for Razorback head coach Bret Bielema.
“I think it is because of the kind of a guy he is,” Allen said. “He is a genuine, genuine type of guy that players want to play for,” Allen said. “He is almost like a father figure in that you don’t want to do anything to disappoint him – whether that is off the field or on it.
“You want to perform well, to perfect your craft because of the guy he is. You want him to succeed so therefore you do everything in your power to succeed for him.”
A lot of the preseason publicity has centered on how Arkansas finished last season – blanking LSU and Ole Miss, losing at Missouri and then routing Texas 31-6 in the Texas Bowl in Houston.
The opportunity to play Texas capped off the season according to Allen.
“It meant so much,” Allen said. “Especially being from Arkansas I know the rivalry I grew up when we have beaten Texas and lost to Texas.
“Just getting the opportunity to play Texas was great. We were waiting for the bowl invitation to come out and we heard that was one of the two options.
“We were praying that we got to play them because we knew not only what it means to our team, but to our state and all the fans we have around the state to beat Texas.
“It is a big-time rivalry and beating them there really is nothing sweeter.”
Bielema believes that Allen is under-rated but also understands it.
“First, we were a 3-9 and 7-6 team and people talk about winners and that’s not winning in this league,” Bielema said.
“…Last year we played with him and won, partly because of his growth and we had a lot of other people doing good things.
“The number one reason Brandon is going to have success this year is the five guys in front of him.
“I learned early on in coaching that you build from the inside out. Well our center, our quarterback and both of our tailbacks are back.
“Our tackles that played right next to the guards are really, really good players, we have two tight ends that are gifted and we have wide receivers that can not only run, but can catch the ball as well.”
Allen indeed is blessed to have a great offensive line in front of them although it does cost a lot when he takes them out to eat.
“I have taken them out before and it put a dent in my wallet,” Allen said. “Those guys can eat. I think at one time they were the biggest offensive line in the NFL and college football.
“I feel very protected by them. They do a great job and they work well together with their communication and all the things that they do.
“It just makes me do my job better to not have to worry about people getting after me because I have the smartest and biggest O-line in front of me.”
Allen has been working hard on improving during the off-season.
“You can never be perfect, you really can’t,” Allen said. “There is always something that you can improve on. Especially at quarterback because there are so many things that you can do.
“For me it is footwork. I have been doing so much with footwork. It is about being a student of the game. You have to be the smartest guy in the room because quarterbacks always have to know the most.
“It is film study and so much more. There is never a time when you can get content with your game.”
Allen also knows so much of playing quarterback is ignoring criticism and praise.
“I think to play quarterback you have got to have tough skin,” Allen said. “You get to much credit when you win and too much blame when you lose.
“You have to have that tough skin and block out the noise and we have had a lot of noise here so I know what it is about.
“To be able to block that out and focus on what you want – which ultimately is wins – you have to block out both the good and the bad is something that you really need to be successful.”
“At first when I was younger, it probably did affect me a little bit. I was not used to the people talking.
“But as I have matured and gotten older, it doesn’t affect me at all. You hear things when you play good, you hear worse when you play bad.
“You do hear it, but you have that thick skin and you just block it out and keep it out of the program is just something that you have to do.”
The Evolution Of Brandon Allen
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