Arkansas enters the first year with head coach Bret Bielema needing to find the successor at quarterback to future NFL draft pick Tyler Wilson, and it appears that Brandon Allen is the favorite to be the Razorbacks’ starter following a string of strong practices.
The Hogs’ spring game Saturday will be the final test for the redshirt sophomore who is battling with Brandon Mitchell, who played wide receiver last year, to secure his spot on the top of the depth chart. Allen was the backup to Wilson last year and attempted 49 passes while appearing in five games.
The gap between the two wasn’t that significant at the onset of spring practice, but after the first scrimmage last month, Allen started to separate himself. In the March scrimmage, Allen completed 11 of 19 passes for 137 yards that including a 65-yard touchdown to Javontee Herndon.
During the week leading up to the spring game offensive coordinator Jim Chaney echoed those sentiments in comments he made to Robert Turbeville of Hawgs247.
“In certain things, I believe there is (separation),” Chaney said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think the smoothness, the way the offense is running, it appears that way to me also, subjectively. Statistically, when you look at accuracy and decisions, he’s a little bit ahead, but not considerably.”
Another edge that Allen has over Mitchell is that he can be a long-term solution at the position and grow in Bielema’s offense where Mitchell is a senior and provides much less upside than his younger adversary. Mitchell has the respect of his teammates and is a great leader, but in order to get the starting job would have to vastly outplay Allen in the spring game.
A starter may not be officially named after the game on Saturday, but if it’s even remotely close, then I think Bielema goes with the younger Allen for the upside factor and his ability to make the big play as evidenced by his 65-yard bomb in the first scrimmage.
No matter who is chosen to start the season, the competition between the two has made each a better player. As Bielema told the Arkansas News in March, “Like I say to the kids all the time, competition brings the best out of people,” Bielema said. “I wish I had that type of competition at every position just because it puts a stress on the people involved.”
Filling the shoes of Wilson may be difficult, but he emerged after competing with Ryan Mallett and became a better player. I think the same will be said for Allen, and he can thank Mitchell for helping him along on this course.