FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) One of Arkansas’ most heated, and perhaps most crucial, position battles so far this preseason hasn’t even been for a starting spot.
Rather, it’s the competition between quarterbacks Austin Allen and Rafe Peavey for the backup spot to starter Brandon Allen that has had the full attention of the coaches and fanbase.
How quickly either Austin Allen or Peavey assert themselves as the clear No. 2 option under center could play a role in how Arkansas rebounds from last season’s 3-9 disappointment – a year in which the lack of a high-level backup significantly hampered the Razorbacks.
”It’s everything,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. ”The backup quarterback has got to be able to step in and perform the same way (Brandon Allen’s) doing … You can’t fall off. There’s a reason one is a No. 2 … You’d like to have it pretty close.”
Arkansas lost its final nine games last season, all after Allen injured his throwing shoulder in the third game of the season. The starter only missed one game with the injury, but he played the rest of the season while practicing only one day per week and receiving numbing shots in order to play.
Backup AJ Derby, a former Iowa transfer, filled in for the injured Allen last season, but he struggled with inconsistency – finishing the season 19-of-36 passing for 178 yards.
Derby has since been moved to tight end for the Razorbacks, though Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has kept the possibility open that he could still see time under center.
Still, much of the attention this preseason has centered around Allen’s younger brother, Austin, and the freshman, Peavey.
”We need a guy to come in, God forbid something happen to Brandon, come in and lead the team on drives,” Allen said. ”I feel like that’s something we really need for this team, and getting comfortable with the playbook and speed of the game has really helped me out this summer.”
Allen redshirted last year in his first season with the Razorbacks, but the Fayetteville native earned plenty of attention in the state after winning two state championships in the state’s largest prep classification.
He struggled to fully grasp Arkansas’ offense and the speed of the college game last season, but Allen performed well in the Razorbacks first preseason scrimmage last weekend – finishing an unofficial 16-of-19 passing for 170 yards.
It was a welcomed confidence boost, both for Allen and his teammates.
”I believe that if Brandon goes down, Austin can step up and throw the ball just as good as his brother,” Arkansas wide receiver Drew Morgan said. ”I hope that for our team.”
A day after the scrimmage, Chaney said Allen was considered Arkansas’ No. 2 quarterback ”right now,” before adding ”who knows what will take place in the next two weeks.”
Peavey, who went through spring practice with the Razorbacks after graduating high school early in Missouri, also showed flashes of his playmaking ability in the scrimmage. He finished 7-of-10 passing for 42 yards, but he also showed the ability to scramble when needed.
Regardless of who earns the backup role, Arkansas enters this season with much more confidence at that position – while hoping Brandon Allen remains healthy as the starter.
”I think the battle for No. 2 is in full throttle, and I like where both of them are going,” Bielema said.