Arkansas sophomore quarterback Brandon Allen had just limited action in five career games before the Razorbacks’ season opener vs. Louisiana-Lafayette in the season opener, but looked like a seasoned veteran four quarters later.
Allen served as Tyler Wilson’s understudy last season in Fayetteville that included a start — or I should say a baptism by fire in a start vs. Alabama that resulted in a 52-0 loss. The expectations for the 6-foot-3, 220-pound signal caller in 2013 were a mixed bag.
Brandon Mitchell was a veteran who brought a dual-threat element to his game, but after he was beat out by Allen and subsequently decided to transfer to North Carolina State, the expectations began to rise for Allen. The vibe surrounding Allen went from game-manager to potential game-breaker.
Throughout the spring and into fall camp, Allen continued to gain confidence and grow more comfortable within Bret Bielema and Jim Chaney’s pro-style offensive system. Chaney built a reputation as a wizard of the spread offense after learning form Joe Tiller at Wyoming and later Purdue, but has adapted his philosophy while at Tennessee.
When evaluating a quarterback, one of the more important attributes needed to excel at the position are confidence and the faith of your coaches. The old saying that competition making everyone better could not be more spot-on when speaking of Allen.
Watching Allen dissect the Rajin’ Cajuns on Saturday was proof that he is a radically different player than the quarterback who looked like a deer caught in the headlights vs. the eventual champions last year. He flipped the proverbial light switch midway through the spring and has elevated his game with every practice.
Nothing is scarier to an opposing defense than a confident quarterback who has the full support of his coaching staff. Allen has both of these intangibles to go along with his impressive physical tools.
Furthermore, Chaney called a masterful game that put Allen in a position to make easy throws and catch the defense on their heels. Allen finished his afternoon completing 15 of his 23 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns, and played as close to a perfect game as you can get. He displayed the “it” factor that quarterbacks are born with.
A quarterback’s best friend is a strong running game, and Arkansas didn’t have just a strong running game — they had a dominating run game, with Jonathan Williams and freshman phenom Alex Collins piling up 282 yards combined. This will be a recurring theme for Arkansas all season long, so the Hogs will go as far as Allen takes them. It’s going to be farther than most anticipated in year one under Bielema.
Having the game’s best center, Travis Swanson, serving as Allen’s personal protector can set his mind at ease knowing he won’t have a 325-pound defensive lineman barreling into his feet while he’s trying to stand tall in the pocket and deliver a strike to Javontee Herndon.
The perception of Arkansas changed in one game in part because of the player taking the snaps from Swanson. The same player that was thought to be the Achilles’ heel of the Razorbacks team in 2013 should now be looked at as the player to lead Arkansas out of the darkest period the program has seen since 2005.
After the opening game, Bielema told the media, “Allen has the demeanor of a championship quarterback.” Teams preyed on Arkansas last year and with Allen gaining more confidence by the minute, he could make his coach look quite prophetic in the near future.