Arkansas QB battle continues, backup takes first-team reps
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — When Arkansas junior quarterback Ty Storey entered the game on the first drive of the 55-20 season-opening victory over Eastern Illinois, he handed the ball to running back Devwah Whaley for an uneventful 3-yard rush.
He was immediately relieved by sophomore starter Cole Kelley and he didn’t see the field again until the second quarter. Twelve completions, 261 yards and three passing touchdowns later, the second game of the season is looming and Storey appears to have played his way into the starter’s role.
“I don’t think that’s my job to answer that,” Storey said when asked whether he thought he did enough to take over the job. “You’ll have to talk to the big man, I guess.”
Coach Chad Morris said both quarterbacks will get the chance to play at Colorado State on Saturday.
“They both, all of them, have great energy,” he said. “Regardless or whoever starts, it’ll be a feel for it (to see) who moves the team down the field, getting them in the end zone (and) responding to the adversity we’re going to take.”
Prior to the first game, it seemed like Kelley was destined to be the heir apparent to Austin Allen. He started four games last season when Allen was injured, and he led the Razorbacks to half their victories in a 4-8 season. After battling with Storey all spring, it appeared that Kelley’s experience had won out, and he was indeed named the starter for the opener..
“It was disappointing, I can’t really lie about that,” Storey said. “It was rough, but everyone goes through stuff, I know.”
Still, the door was open for Storey to impress his coaches and potentially play his way into the starting job.
“I was really in hopes that there would be a clear cut, ‘Boom, here it is, it was evident from the first scrimmage,’ but we didn’t get that,” Morris said of his decision to start Kelley. “We got a really good, healthy competition at that position. That’s a good thing.”
Storey ended week one with the second-best passing efficiency mark in the country at 257.8, according to the NCAA, only behind the 269.8 mark registered by Toledo’s Mitch Guadagni. Kelley’s 9-for12, one-touchdown performance was largely overshadowed.
“Looking back on Cole Kelley, first of all I want to commend him for being a great teammate,” Morris said. “He was encouraging Ty and was happy for this football team as we were scoring points.”
Offensive coordinator Joe Craddock also liked what he saw out of both quarterbacks, and he said Storey’s mental toughness allowed him to come in and play well.
“I told Ty after the game that if he hadn’t prepared like he was going to be the starter, he wouldn’t have come in and done the things that he did,” Craddock said. “I thought he came ready to go and made the most of his opportunity when he got it.”
With 11 games remaining on the schedule, Arkansas’ starting quarterback conundrum seems to be far from over. In fact, it may have gotten a bit more unclear following week one. Still, if the first game was any indication of how things will continue the rest of this season, one in-state guy could live out his childhood dream by playing his way into offense’s lead role.
“We have a lot of great quarterbacks, so I know it’s going to be a battle, and it’s still a battle,” Storey said. “I’ve just got to keep working and keep grinding.”