Austin Allen has been here before.
The Arkansas quarterback took over for his brother Brandon as Fayetteville High School’s starter in 2011 and led the Bulldogs to consecutive Class 7A state championships.
In April — nearly four months after Brandon’s final game as the Razorbacks’ signal caller — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema named Austin Allen as his pick to be the new starting quarterback. The announcement came about a week before Arkansas’ spring game, giving Austin time to take firm control of the offense before the season opener Sept. 3 against Louisiana Tech.
Beginning today, SEC Country will begin a nine-part series breaking down Arkansas position groups entering the 2016 season, Bielema’s fourth in Fayetteville.
Names you need to know
Austin Allen (redshirt junior), Rafe Peavey (sophomore), Ty Storey (redshirt freshman), Ricky Town (redshirt freshman), Cole Kelley (true freshman).
Austin Allen was considered the favorite to replace his big brother and that came to pass with Bielema’s spring announcement of Allen as the starter. During the last two seasons, he appeared in eight games and completed nine of 19 pass attempts for 188 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
In the Razorbacks’ April spring game, he completed 13 of 19 passes for 141 yards.
Allen won the job over sophomore Rafe Peavey and redshirt freshmen Ty Storey and Ricky Town, none of whom have appeared in any college football games.
Before Allen was named the starter, it seemed to come down to him and Peavey, an interesting battle because of the difference in their playing styles. Allen is a prototypical pocket passer, while Peavey is more of a dual-threat quarterback.
Meanwhile, the two redshirt freshman signal callers on the roster appeared to be the third and fourth options throughout the spring. Storey signed with the Razorbacks in the recruiting class of 2015, while Town signed with USC before leaving the Trojans during his first fall camp and enrolling at Arkansas.
Even though both Storey and Town were four-star prospects, Town was the slightly higher-rated recruit, leading some to speculate that he could be the guy to replace Brandon Allen in 2016. Instead, by all accounts, Town was never a major player in the spring quarterback battle. It will be interesting to see what eventually happens with the two touted redshirt freshmen, especially considering what is coming up behind them.
While Cole Kelley was a three-star prospect and his offer list wasn’t that of a traditional blue chipper, there is reason to believe Kelley could eventually lead the Razorbacks offense.
He’s big — few quarterbacks are as tall as the 6-foot-7 Kelley — he has a great arm and he can be deceptively mobile considering his size. It will be interesting to see how Kelley adapts to Arkansas’ pro-style offense; his high school ran an up-tempo, no-huddle system.
But barring some unexpected situation, Arkansas will have a member of the Allen family as its starting quarterback for the fourth straight season.
Considering quarterback arguably is the most important position in team sports, the Razorbacks’ 2016 fate may very well depend on Austin’s performance.