Coach: Allen's status still in doubt
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)
Bret Bielema still doesn't know whether Brandon Allen will play this week, and he's not about to put any more information out there about the quarterback's status than he needs to.
The Arkansas coach said Monday that he had no more news regarding Allen's bruised right shoulder, which he injured last week while diving for a first-quarter touchdown against Southern Mississippi.
Allen's injury forced him to miss most of the Razorbacks' win over the Golden Eagles, and he spent the second half on the sideline with his arm in a sling. Backup quarterback AJ Derby finished the game, and Bielema said the junior will prepare with the first-team offense this week while he awaits definitive word on Allen's status.
''It's really just a matter of how fast (Allen's) body can heal,'' Bielema said. ''I know it's a throwing arm issue ... I wouldn't want to put him in harm's way at all.''
Arkansas (3-0) travels to Rutgers this week in a rematch of a regular-season game that the Scarlet Knights (2-1) won last season 35-26 in Fayetteville. Rutgers is unsure of the status of its starting quarterback, Gary Nova, who suffered a concussion last week.
To help the Razorbacks quarterbacks focus on Saturday's game, Bielema said he's making them ''off limits'' to interviews this week. The former Wisconsin coach said he did the same thing while with the Badgers.
''We went on to win that game,'' Bielema said.
Arkansas went through a similar will-he-or-won't-he situation last season at quarterback following an injury to then-quarterback Tyler Wilson.
Former coach John L. Smith kept the possibility open of playing Wilson, who suffered a concussion the week before against Louisiana-Monroe, against Alabama that week, even going as far as to have the quarterback go through pregame warmups. However, it was Allen and Brandon Mitchell who played during a 52-0 loss.
Bielema insisted he didn't know if Allen will be able to play against Rutgers, though he appeared to imply that he wouldn't say — even if he did know — while answering a question about Derby.
''So, to me, there's a certain gamesmanship or element to, you know, you don't have to show everything that you've got,'' Bielema said. ''Just kind of show the things that you need to.''
Allen, in his first year as the starter, is 26-of-44 passing for 388 yards and five touchdowns this season. The sophomore won the starting job during the spring by beating out Mitchell, who later transferred to North Carolina State.
Derby transferred to the Razorbacks during the offseason after spending a year in junior college. The junior previously played at Iowa, where he saw action in nine games as a redshirt freshman in 2011 — completing three passes for 30 yards.
Bielema, who played at Iowa, said he's friends with Derby's father and that he's known the quarterback for much of his life. He called Derby a ''football junkie'' and believes his experience in transferring from the Hawkeyes — along with throwing for nearly 2,000 yards in junior college last season — will help him if Allen is unable to play this week.
''It's not like he just sat on the bench somewhere else as a reserve,'' Bielema said. ''He was the starting quarterback and was involved in game decisions. I know it's junior college vs. the (Southeastern Conference) vs. a BCS opponent, but it's still football. And that gets you excited.''
Arkansas used a conservative approach on offense following Allen's injury last week, attempting 56 runs compared to just 11 passes. Derby finished 3-of-4 passing for 29 yards, but he was limited as the Razorbacks relied on the running back tandem of Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins to grind out the 24-3 win.
Williams finished with 116 yards rushing on 16 carries, including a 45-yard touchdown run, while Collins became the first freshman in SEC history to top the 100-yard rushing mark in his first three games, finishing with 115 yards on 25 attempts.
Collins was the first freshman to do so in FBS since Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson in 2004.
''I mean, we kind of felt we should be able to run the football there and get out of there with what we did,'' Bielema said. ''Obviously, it worked well. I knew once we got up by the three scores, I felt comfortable where we were at and the way our defense was playing.''
If Derby is called on to play against Rutgers, Bielema said he would ''100 percent'' unleash him at quarterback. He also said freshman quarterback Austin Allen, Brandon's younger brother, would prepare this week as the backup.