FAYETTEVILLE - Though with a mostly less experienced skilled supporting cast, senior quarterback Austin Allen vows to try less for the Razorbacks than he tried last year.
Let’s explain. We aren’t talking less effort, less preparation, less leadership. The fifth-year senior captain from Fayetteville vows doing more not less of all the above.
But putting too much of game’s burden on himself, Allen vows not do even with such past go-to guys as running back Rawleigh Williams (career ending neck injury) and 2016 graduated tight end Jeremy Sprinkle and 2016 graduated receivers Keon Hatcher, Drew Morgan, Dominique Reed and Cody Hollister no longer available to help.
““For me, I just have to take what they give me,” Allen said of attacking defenses during last week’s Arkansas session of SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. “A few times last year, I felt like I had to make a play to get us back on track. I thought I had to get out of my comfort zone and it didn’t always work out. Punting isn’t always the worst thing.”
“This year if I get four yards on a 3rd- and-6, I know that it is playing field position and flipping the field,” Allen said. “Knowing the scenario of the game and the down and distance will really help me out by playing smarter and staying in the flow of the game better.”
It will help if the offense about to punt has more confidence that its defense can force the opposition to punt rather than make the quarterback believe he must go for broke on third down because there is little cause to believe the defense will keep the opposition from scoring.
The Razorbacks start their preseason practices on July 17 talking a good game about faith that their switch from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense begins the trend to make this defense stop the run instead of getting run over like the defense did in 2016.
Looking at the voting of Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts voted first-team at All-SEC Media Days and 2017 SEC passing leader Allen named third-team All-SEC, the major difference is Hurts was complemented by the SEC’s best defense and Allen often beset trying to overcome compensating for his team’s defensive shortcomings.
Sometimes, he tried to do too much. Like his spectacular career high 400 passing yards last year against Alabama come to naught in 49-30 loss to the Crimson Tide in Fayetteville. All-SEC Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick picked off three Allen passes including one he returned end zone to end zone for a 100-yard touchdown even as Allen completed 25 of 48 with three touchdowns.
“"He's a great quarterback, but we were just putting so much pressure on him that sometimes he would just make a bad throw or he would think he was seeing something that wasn't there," Fitzpatrick said.
Allen said his greatest statistical game wasn’t so great and that Alabama’s 49 points certainly shouldn’t all be laid at the defense’s feet.
“"We kind of got down where we had to start throwing the ball,""I didn't play flawless by any means. They had too many turnovers where we just gave them short fields and points and things like that.”
Arkansas’ offensive line, senior first-team All-SEC center Frank Ragnow said, will better protect Allen this year than last.
If better protected last year, the Arkansas line assumes this year that Allen would have been voted preseason ahead of Hurts and Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.
“Being his teammate, I obviously think he's the best in the country,” Ragnow said. “He doesn't really care what people talk about. He's just worried about getting wins for us.”
As for replacing the departed cast, Allen talks up sophomore running back Devwah Whaley and says go-to senior Jared Cornelius highlights a young receiving corps that will earn big reputations by this time next year.
“This time next year you guys (media)n will be saying, ‘The guy who will be quarterback has a snack bar full of receivers,” Allen said. “I think those young guys are ready to come out and make a difference.”
Though a senior in football eligibility, senior isn’t Allen’s accurate definition. He’s a UA grad working on his masters.
“We're very proud,” Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said. “Austin will get about two-thirds of the way through his masters before he is ever finished playing college football for us.”