Bret Bielema, coaching staff confident in Austin Allen as he faces Aggies
If there are any concerns about junior quarterback Austin Allen, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema certainly did a good job of covering them up at his weekly Monday press conference.
Even though Allen is gearing up to make his first SEC start since taking over for his older brother Brandon, Bielema is confident that his signal-caller is up for the task of going against a Texas A&M defense that has been stellar this season.
“I think we have, as a program, gotten better every week in the season that we’re in, but I think at quarterback that’s really going to be the case,” Bielema told the media on Monday. “I would argue that I think a quarterback thinks a little bit like we do as coaches in the fact that the more they see an opponent, the more they can read about them and learn about them. At least for a quarterback like Austin, he’ll probably be better prepared.”
Part of the maturation process for Allen has been his ability to become comfortable with his wide receivers. Although 10 different Razorbacks have caught passes this season, the quarterback seems to have already established his favorite targets.
Keon Hatcher (11 catches, 204 yards, 2 TD) and Drew Morgan (15 catches, 168 yards, 1 TD) have accounted for nearly half of Allen’s completions, while tight end Jeremey Sprinkle (9 catches, 97 yards, 3 TD) has become the signal-caller’s go-to guy inside the red zone.
“I know this: he definitely has guys that he looks for,” Bielema said Monday. “Every quarterback goes through that process, finding out who their guy is and when they’re going to look for them on certain routes.”
It may only be Allen’s first year as a starter, but the junior is very familiar with the way the Razorbacks’ offense operates. According to Bielema, he and offensive coordinator Dan Enos have a firm understanding of the way Allen clicks, too. The mutual awareness has allowed Arkansas’ coaching staff to put its quarterback in a position to succeed through the first three weeks of the season.
“Even though he wasn’t the starter last year, Dan (Enos) has been around him and knows his personality,” Bielema said. “I think as coaches, we know the strengths and weaknesses of our players, especially at quarterback. Austin does a lot of really good things well. I think he throws on the move very well. I think he throws well to the left and to the right … I’m just excited to watch him to continue to grow.”
Allen has played like a leader thus far, orchestrating game-winning drives against both Louisiana Tech and TCU. This week’s challenge will undoubtedly be amplified against No. 10 Texas A&M when he makes his SEC debut, though the quarterback hasn’t given onlookers any reason to doubt he can handle the pressure.
In fact, Allen has been among the most efficient quarterbacks in the conference through three games. His 160.9 passer rating is second in the SEC behind only Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly (164.2), and he’s shown repeatedly that he can help the Razorbacks overcome adversity.
This week, Bielema seems like a coach who’s confident with what he has behind center. After watching the success Allen has had through his first three career starts, who could blame him?