Allen, despite praise from coaches, has not made enough of an improvement to actually be a weapon for Arkansas. Instead, he will line up behind center as the biggest liability for the Razorback offense.
In 2012, the quarterback only saw significant action in two games: relieving Tyler Wilson against Louisiana-Monroe and Alabama while Wilson was injured. Alabama buried Arkansas in Fayetteville 52-0, so it is not fair to evaluate Allen’s performance when his entire team was out matched by Alabama’s first and second string offense and defense for four quarters. However, a lot can be learned about Allen from his performance against Louisiana-Monroe.
The Warhawks entered Little Rock, AR in 2012 for their season opener. The Razorbacks were heavily favored to win as the game was essentially a tune-up before hosting Alabama the following week. For a game like this one, the second-string players prepared to see significant time as the game was supposed to be a blowout. Allen, especially, figured to take quite a few snaps, if not all snaps in the second half. However, when Wilson suffered a concussion in a surprisingly close game, the world seemed surprised to see Allen enter the game.
Allen, who had fully expected to take several snaps in the game, played badly against the 108th-worst passing defense in college football. The redshirt-freshman quarterback completed just six of his 20 attempts for 85 yards with one touchdown and an interception that set up the game-tying touchdown for the Warhawks. This type of performance may seem acceptable from a young quarterback thrown into a big game, but it cannot be acceptable for a player who prepared and expected to play all, or at least most, of the second half leading into the game.
Brandon Allen showed that he had a lot of work to do in order to be a viable option at quarterback heading into 2013. All reports from Fayetteville indicate that he has turned in a solid spring. Even though he has turned in decent statistics in scrimmages, the defense he is facing did finish 113th against the pass last season. When this is taken into account, Allen’s spring numbers are nowhere near the quality fans should expect from the projected starter.
Allen would be the worst starting quarterback in the SEC if he opens the season in that role. Coach Bret Bielema will have to decide on this as the season draws nearer. The first-year Arkansas coach can decide to try to improve on a 4-8 season or plan for the future and develop a younger quarterback. The first option should lead to naming senior Brandon Mitchell the starter given his versatility and ability to create while the second option clearly points to Brandon’s younger brother, freshman Austin Allen. Austin is a much better and polished passer than his brother as well as being younger gives him the most possible upside for development moving forward.
Whichever plan Bielema chooses to implement, Brandon Allen is not the right answer to the question: who should start at quarterback for Arkansas in 2013? If Brandon Allen is named the starter, however, Arkansas fans will be in for a long, dreadful season this fall.