Arkansas' Allen eager to assume starting QB role
To this day, it burns Daryl Patton that Brandon Allen didn't receive more national recognition during his three years as the starting quarterback for Fayetteville High School.
The Bulldogs coach won't have to worry much longer about that lack of attention for his former star pupil.
Allen, the son of former Arkansas assistant coach Bobby Allen, enters this season as the likely starting quarterback for the Razorbacks. He will lead the team's entrance into the Bret Bielema era and he is eager to step in as the heir to the likes of Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson.
The redshirt sophomore saw limited action last season while Wilson was out with a concussion and he struggled. But Allen earned a first-team spot on the depth chart in the spring while outperforming Brandon Mitchell.
Mitchell transferred to North Carolina State during the summer, leaving little doubt about who will start for the Razorbacks.
''When we came out of spring ball, especially after the spring game and really the last two weeks of spring practice, (Allen) established himself where he was,'' Bielema said. ''That's why it was a pretty easy conversation with Brandon Mitchell to let him know about that, and obviously it changed the course for him in a short amount of time.''
Allen arrived at Arkansas with plenty of local fanfare, thanks to a standout prep career that took place within walking distance of the university's campus.
After switching from running back to quarterback in seventh grade, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Allen quickly adapted to his new role under center - throwing for more than 10,000 yards in his three seasons in high school. He threw 20 interceptions as a sophomore before reducing that number to five as a junior, bettering that as a senior while going the entire regular season without throwing one.
Allen received only one scholarship offer - from Arkansas.
Sure, there was interest from schools across the SEC - and even as far away as Oregon - but most just assumed Allen would join his father, who is now in charge of high school and NFL relations, with the Razorbacks. Allen committed to Arkansas as a junior.
''He may not be known by a lot of people, and a lot of people may not think he was highly regarded, but he was one of the best quarterbacks to ever come through this state,'' Patton said. ''He'll make some mistakes, but a year from now, two years from now, I don't think there will be many better quarterbacks in the nation. I think he's just that good.''
Under Bielema's balanced approach, Allen isn't expected to be counted on as much as he was in the second half of last season's stunning loss to Louisiana-Monroe. Allen replaced Wilson at halftime of that game, with Arkansas ahead 21-7, and he led the Razorbacks to a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half. The game, and the season, unraveled from there - with Arkansas losing 34-31 in overtime and Allen finishing 6-of-20 passing for 85 yards.
Allen's task didn't get much easier the following week against eventual national champion Alabama. With Wilson still recovering, Allen shared time with Mitchell and finished 10 of 18 for 60 yards, including a pair of interceptions in a 52-0 loss.
''I think people have an unfair thought of him; that's the last thing they remember about him,'' Arkansas fullback Kiero Small said. ''They don't really take into account that probably any backup quarterback in the nation would have been in trouble going into that situation.''
Allen only threw four passes the rest of the season and is eager to put the lasting impression of that game to rest.
''Obviously, I took it hard on myself for not playing well, and other players took it hard on themselves,'' Allen said. ''We all took it personally, and it was hard on everybody. I'm just looking at it as a learning experience.''
Expectations are low this season for the Razorbacks, who were picked to finish last in the SEC West after last year's 4-8 collapse under John L. Smith.
Allen is just fine with that.
He's in exactly the position at this point that he had hoped for when he arrived at Arkansas, and now he's ready to prove to the rest of the country he's up for the challenge.
''It's like a stepping stone,'' Allen said. ''I've gotten this far. Now we want to win games, win bowl games and all the way up to the national championship. It's a long process of goals that aren't just mine, but our whole team.''