FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas redshirt freshman quarterback Cole Kelley is likely to start Saturday against Auburn, coach Bret Bielema said Thursday night.
Bielema had said earlier in the week, both Monday and Wednesday, there was a possibility Austin Allen could play. During the coach’s show Thursday night, however, Bielema suggested Kelley was going to get the nod for the second straight week as Allen was not yet completely recovered from a shoulder injury he sustained two weeks ago against South Carolina.
Kelley made his first career start last week against Alabama. He went 23 of 42 for 200 yards with a touchdown and an interception. They weren’t great numbers, but Kelley did have his most success when Arkansas began to quicken the pace.
Bielema said he didn’t anticipate going up-tempo regularly against Auburn, but he didn’t count it completely out, either.
“I think, obviously, depending on the game flow, depending on where we’re at, he definitely got some mojo when he did kick it into high gear,” Bielema said of Kelley. “I’ve seen him very comfortable from Day 1 in that mode of two-minute.”
With Kelley now having two weeks’ worth of practice and a game with the first-team wide receivers under his belt, Bielema anticipates a better game against Auburn. Quarterback-receiver chemistry is important, Bielema said, and Kelley had not taken many reps with Arkansas’ first-team wideouts in practice until after Allen went down.
Jordan Jones, Deon Stewart and Brandon Martin were Kelley’s favorite targets against Alabama; leading receiver Jonathan Nance had just 1 catch. Those four are the top 4 on the depth chart, at least when it comes to those most likely out wide to have the most catches.
There has also been a call for more touches for sophomore wide receiver/running back T.J. Hammonds. Hammonds had worked his way into a wildcat type role and had 2 carries for 22 yards against South Carolina, then didn’t touch the ball against Alabama. Bielema said part of that was injury.
“I got on him the other day because everybody was asking why T.J. Hammonds [wasn’t playing as much]; he was like, ‘I don’t know, I want to get out there.’ And I go, ‘Did you tell anybody you were injured? You might want to tell somebody that because I ain’t going to tell anybody,'” Bieleman said. “He tends to play coy, plays possum very, very well.”
If Hammonds is able and the four Arkansas wideouts continue their growth, it will go a long way in helping Kelley improve on his Alabama start.
Auburn and Arkansas are set to go from Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. ET.