State of the Hogs: No Surprises with QB Announcements

Bret Bielema didn't surprise when he named Austin Allen the starter earlier in the week. The Arkansas coach didn't surprise when he said Rafe Peavey is the clear number two on Saturday.

With race over for the starting quarterback job, I thought it time to move the discussion to the backup spot after Saturday's practice.

There was confirmation from Arkansas coach Bret Bielema that Rafe Peavey has that battle in hand, but there were some clues in the practice why Allen was named the starter earlier in the week.

There was a red zone play when Peavey turned the wrong way on what was going to be a sweep to the right and had to eat the ball. Bielema pulled Peavey aside with a question. Is there a quarterback in the SEC who makes that mistake?

The point was made then, and to the media later when I asked Bielema if there was a clear number two behind Allen.

"Rafe is the two for sure," Bielema said. "But he went the wrong way on a simple play today. He can't make that mistake.

"Ty Storey has done some really good things, too. He's got a great football IQ, as good as you would want. But he's got to quicken up his release."

Back to Allen's emergence as the starter, Bielema said it came to him last week when he made a trip to Florida to check on his wife's father after a delicate surgery. There was time for some extra tape study. It hit him that the quarterback battle was over.

"He is the best," Bielema said of Allen. "It's not even close. So I was thinking after Monday's practice, we need something to take us to another level, a sense of urgency."

First, Bielema met with Peavey to make sure the decision was understood, but no one else knew until Bielema made the announcement in a team meeting. The team gave him the same kind of clap that a player might get when a scholarship is given or an award announced.

"We responded with an incredible practice Thursday," Bielema said. "It was lights out."

Bielema said it was not really a big announcement, though. He said coaches knew it was time and everyone in the locker room knew it was time.

"They knew it, we knew it as coaches," he said.

A bigger deal might be the development of Peavey. There have been plenty of bright spots this spring for the sophomore from Boliver, Mo. But there were times he threw into double coverage (although none were intercepted) in drills Saturday. Austin doesn't make those mistakes.

There were hints that the Hogs would scrimmage some Saturday, but there were only a few plays where backs were tackled to the ground. Since Rawleigh Williams was wearing a green shirt with the first team, there was none with that group.

That makes perfect sense after Kody Walker went down with a broken foot. Bielema indicated that Williams is cleared for tackling, but won't this spring.

"He could, but I'm just not going to do that," Bielema said. "He'll work with the first team in the Red-White game (next week) but we won't tackle him. We just need to have them together."

There was a bright spot in some short yardage work with the twos when running back Juan Day churned for four yards on a third-and-3. Day made someone miss in the hole and went through an arm tackle for extra yards. It wasn't a long run, but there was a cutback in a different situation that showed some wiggle from Day.

"That's what we've been waiting to see," Bielema said of the running back trying to battle back from two ACL knee surgeries.

It was a feel good moment for everyone around the team. Day is well liked and all know he's had enough tough breaks.

Another feel-good moment came when Allen found Dominique Reed on a 39-yard pass down the sideline in one of the few passing plays in the team segment of the drills. Allen beat released the ball just ahead of pressure and it hit Reed in stride.

So how has Reed been in his first UA spring? The 6-3, 170-pounder looked wonderful on that play.

"Well, he's not gotten any heavier," Bielema said. "He doesn't like to eat."

That seems to bother Bielema, someone trying to diet away some extra pounds.

"He won't play in the NFL until he gains 10 pounds. He just doesn't eat."

But he does like to practice.

"He's taken some steps," Bielema said. "There are no busts. His practice skills are good and Austin likes to get him the ball."

There needs to be more feel good moments with the offensive line. It's clear that Hjalte Froholdt is making progress in his bid to become the starting left guard. His protections aren't perfect, but he made some blocks on running plays that were terrific on Saturday. Bielema said Froholdt had a great week.

The left tackles had trouble with Deatrich Wise, Karl Roesler and JaMichael Winston. Colton Jackson was with the ones for most of the day, but Johnny Gibson took a few snaps there with the first team and worked there with the twos.

But there were also plays when Jackson and Gibson did well. It's clear that Wise will be a load for any offensive tackle. He's been spectacular this spring. His body is more defined, he is quicker and can convert his strength into football plays better than anyone on the team.

Brian Wallace continues to work at right guard, but lacks consistency, Bielema said. The head coach wants a better pad level and said that goes for Dan Skipper, too.

The kicking game looked terrific. Cole Hedlund has not missed on the spring and was wonderful on his six chances thoughout the day Saturday. Punter Toby Baker has added an end-over-end corner punt to his arsenal. He had three punts over 47 yards in the team periods. New deeper snapper George Madden looks solid.

Bielema stopped short of naming any of those as the starter. His goal for the spring was to put as much pressure on all three as possible and that is going to continue through the rest of the spring.

Well, it's pretty obvious that they are the guys there, just like Austin Allen is the guy at quarterback. The head coach probably doesn't think naming those guys as starters will create the same kind of vibe that picking his field general did last week.

Dan Enos and Austin Allen

Damon Mitchell

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