Arkansas QB Derby Set To Get Underway Tuesday

Arkansas will begin spring practice on Tuesday with a lot of eyes looking to see what happens at quarterback with a wide-open competition to replace Brandon Allen.

While Oaklawn may be hosting its biggest horse race of the racing season on April 16th, there will be another type of Arkansas Derby finishing up that month as well.

For the first time in three years, quarterback Brandon Allen is not around to take the starter snaps during the Razorbacks' spring practices.

Instead his younger brother and redshirt junior-to-be Austin Allen (6-1, 208) will be battling redshirt sophomore Rafe Peavey (6-2, 203) as well as redshirt freshmen Ty Storey (6-2, 216) and Ricky Town (6-3, 212) as spring practice gets underway Tuesday.  

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema made it clear that the younger Allen was the leader of the group going into the first of 15 spring workouts, but he wasn’t locked into naming a starter at the end of the Red-White game on April 23.

“No, I am not,” Bielema said. “I really believe in the quarterback position you need to have one guy, but when that guys comes - be it 10 days out from our opener -  I will be alright and I want the best guy in that position and I want the second-best guy behind him and the third-best behind him and see the chips kind of fall out where they will.

“Am I going to be disappointed if there is not a clear-cut guy? No, not at all. If there is a guy that jumps out, stands out and proves it kind of than just on more than one or two occasions, he’ll be that guy.

“I also think (2016 quarterback signee) Cole Kelley is good and a freshman that has a very good chance to come in and compete as well so there is nothing that I am going to limit them to.”

Arkansas will begin drills on Tuesday and normally have practice on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

That should give all of the quarterbacks plenty of snaps to prove their worth.

“I think that one of the neat challenges that we have this year is that we are practicing on the Mondays,” Bielema said, “which could be a little bit more - as things unfold - for some of the guys that haven’t been around as much, which would be in particular those two young quarterbacks (Storey and Town).

“…Rafe and Austin, you haven’t seen a lot of them, but we have and it will be interesting to see how fast those younger guys would come along. 

“I think it would be far to say that if (offensive coordinator) Dan (Enos) or I saw one of those younger guys showing a lot of good things with limited reps that you would want to definitely give them as many as you possibly can.

“We will do some repetition huddle stuff…Even though we aren’t a no-huddle offense, our defense needs to see it. We will do it a lot of times where our defense will go against two huddles of our offense so it appears to be a no-huddle situation and it will benefit both…and you will get a lot more reps for the quarterbacks.”

Allen, who led Fayetteville to two state titles, has been waiting his turn the longest and is the only one of the four to have taken a snap in a game.

“You know what? It's not the first time he's been there,” Bielema said. “He trained two weeks the sophomore year as the starter. His brother came in and started those games but he handled the work week as though he was going to be that guy. He came in relief twice and had success. 

“Then, like I said, during bowl practice there were six practices where B.A. never walked out on the field. I wanted Austin to feel that pressure as well as those other guys.

 “It's going to be fun to see that thing unfold. As you guys know who have covered those two guys since their time in Fayetteville, they're both different guys. Austin is a completely different personality than his brother.  

“Whether that's right, wrong or indifferent it's the truth. He's a little more feisty probably, a little bit more competitive, a little bit more of a gym rat. And it'll be fun to see how that handles itself.”

Bielema likes the leadership skills that Austin Allen has shown him.

“I've been around a lot of quarterbacks, a lot of personalities,” Bielema said. “I think he does have some true leadership skills that are very -- that jump out to you right away. That could be positive or negative, depending on how he uses them. I want him to be more concerned with where the ball is. We're not going to just throw an interception and go to the sideline. it changes games.

“I remember I got on him pretty heavy in bowl practice where he kind of nonchalantly threw one into traffic and it didn't go our way. I just said to him like 'Hey bro, it doesn't work that way, you know?' 

“I think the other part that no one can put a price tag on is he's watched someone he carries about very much for three years grow and develop and listen to his coaches and see the way he's being rewarded right now.

“I don't think the development of BA could be any more crucial… you can't put a price tag on how much it's meant to his brother because there was nobody paying attention to that situation any more than Austin. And to see it come out the way it did, hopefully it'll work out in our favor.”

• • •

Other Tidbits from Bielema's Monday Press Conference:

• Coach Bielema spoke at clinics and both Clemson and Baylor last week

• DL - and former OL - Josh Allen has been removed from the team due to a miscue on spring break. He could come back  later in the spring or could be a transfer situation, according to Bielema. He has some stipulations put down by Bielema to return to the squad. He was moved from the OL by Bielema this winter.

• CB Cornelius Floyd is currently academically ineligible per Arkansas standards and has been removed from the team. He was able to take a course during spring break and could be back with team in May.

* TEs  C.J. O'Grady and Austin Cantrell were late to a meeting Sunday night and will miss the first practice. There were traffic issues on I-49 that delayed the duo, but Bielema said that didn't change the fact they were late.

• WR Drew Morgan will be limited this spring due to a shoulder  injury and won't scrimmage.

• WR Dominique Reed has switched from number 87 to number 3 and has added 8 pounds so he is almost up to 180.

• WR Keon Hatcher is itching to practice after being out last season

• Austin Allen was number one at QB going in with Rafe Peavey, Ty Storey and Ricky Town about even behind him. Doesn't have to name a No. 1 to end the spring, but would like to do so.

• TB RWIII will be able to practice, but will not take contact

• TB Kody Walker is down to 243 after having been at 260 and wants to be the man at tailback for the first time in his sixth year of action.

• Redshirt freshman Colton Jackson has had a great off-season and is battling Brian Wallace for the starting left tackle spot.

• Frank Ragnow is the leader at center right now with Zach Rogers and former DL Hjalte Froholdt working there as well. Ragnow could move to guard if the best five out there is better with somebody else at center and him at guard.

• Johnny Gibson, Froholt,  Deion Malone and Jalen Merrick will be working at G

• Dan Skipper is the RT and in great shape.

• Damon "Duwop" Mitchell will work at TB and has had a nice off-season.

• Linebacker Randy Ramsey (6-4, 230) - who is walking on this spring after missing last season - will line up at the Sam  and try to land the starting spot there, but will also work at the Will.

• LB Josh Williams has improved and will be able to practice, but not go through contact

• Cornerbacks Henre' Tolliver and Ryan Pulley have both added weight, DeAndre Coley has moved back to SS from LB, Reid Miller has moved from CB to S.

• Kendrick Jackson, who played as a fullback as a true freshman, is now a full-time MLB and has trimmed down.

• CB Kevin  Richardson is working at every place in the secondary this spring.

• Redshirt freshman Derrick Graham (6-4, 230) will line up at defensive end along with freshmen McTelvin Agim and Jamario Bell while Jeremiah Ledbetter has been moved inside and Bijhon Jackson and Taiwan Johnson will battle it out at nose guard.

• Defensive ends Deatrich Wise and Tevin Beanum are also back as is a hobbled Jamichael Winston, who will be limited earlier.

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