Left South Carolina game with a shoulder injury, and it was speculated possible concussion protocol.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ depth chart lists Austin Allen as the starting quarterback against Alabama , and Coach Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Dan Enos are optimistic that will occur for the Razorbacks, 2-3, 0-2 in the SEC, in Saturday’s 6:15 p.m. ESPN televised SEC West game against the nationally No. 1 Crimson Tide, 6-0, 3-0, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Unable to finish last Saturday’s 48-22 SEC loss at South Carolina because of a shoulder injury, and it was speculated possible concussion protocol from getting hit so often, fifth-year senior Allen of Fayetteville did not suffer any head injuries in Columbia, S.C., Bielema and Enos said Monday during their weekly head coach and coordinators press conference.
“It's nothing with the head at all,” Bielema said. “ Obviously he got hit and rung up on that one play pretty good(officials threw a flag signaling a late hit penalty on South Carolina and went to replay for a possible targeting penalty then waved off all penalties). He's had two plays now where he's been hit and they've thrown the flag away after the play. It gets frustrating to think your quarterback should be protected better than that. But there wasn't anything to this point of anything on a concussion.”
Regarding the shoulder or any other bruises limiting Allen’s game-week practices or preventing him from quarterbacking against the nationally No. 1 6-0 overall/3-0 in the SEC Crimson Tide, Bielema said. “Still in an evaluation process with him. Could be returned as early as today, tomorrow.”
The Razorbacks used Monday as their NCAA mandated day off and practice in full pads today.
Enos, also the quarterbacks coach, was asked his estimate on when Allen would practice.
“I think he's day-to-day at this point,” Enos said. “I haven't had any updates today so hopefully we get him on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. That's the goal.”
Given Allen’s history bouncing back from injuries, Enos expects him fit to start against the Tide.
“I feel good,” Enos said. “He's extremely tough. Played through a lot of nicks and things. I would expect he can go at all he's gonna be ready to go. Just the kind of player he is.”
Enos did acknowledge the ailing shoulder affected Allen’s second-half throwing motion.
“I think he was probably sore,” Enos said. “He's gonna stay out there, compete and play, but he changed the level of his throwing arm. I think he was compensating for what he was feeling.”
Allen had played his best two games of 2017 in the 50-43 overtime loss to Texas A&M and 42-24 victory over New Mexico State prior to completing 12 of 24 for 84 yards and a touchdown vs. an interception that South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore returned for a 34-yard third-quarter touchdown and stripped of the ball before his arm was ruled in forward pass motion for a fumble that Carolina’s T.J. Brunson returned for a 74-yard third quarter touchdown.
“He was disappointed like the rest of us obviously,” Enos said. “You pour your heart and soul into it each week. He had played really, really well for a couple of weeks in a row. We were feeling really good about the plan and really good about him. It was a 17-10 game at the half and just a complete meltdown after that. The best thing you can do in that situation is get back on the field and practice. So hopefully we can get him back out there soon and get rid of that taste in his mouth.”
Redshirt freshman backup quarterback Cole Kelley finished the game completing 8 of 13 for 140 yards and a touchdown but also threw an interception that Carolina’s Keisean Nixon returned for a 45-yard touchdown.
Bielema lauded Kelley’s performance and especially appreciated him noting that if senior team captain Allen, last year’s SEC passing leader, is healthy, that Allen unquestionably is Saturday night’s starter in Tuscaloosa.
“A great response,” Bielema said. “ I think that's a great indicator of a guy being in the right frame of mind. A great indicator for us was just the way our guys responded and obviously comforted Austin, but also the way that they switched gears right into Cole and got behind him, it was really cool.”
Enos said Kelley made a young quarterback mistake on his interception but otherwise was “outstanding.”
“I loved his pocket posture and presence, his accuracy and the way he was moving around in the pocket,” Enos said.
Junior offensive lineman Johnny Gibson of Dumas, invaluable whether starting at right guard, his starting position against South Carolina as Paul Ramirez started at right tackle, or starting at right tackle when freshman Ty Clary started the previous four games at right guard, injured a knee last Saturday but appeared on the road to recovery Sunday and should practice today or Wednesday, Bielema said.
The Arkansas vs. Auburn SEC game on Oct. 21 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium presently is in either-or TV and kickoff time limbo to be decided next weekend.
Presently the Arkansas vs. Auburn game either will kick off at 6:15 p.m. on ESPN or 6:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.