The 2016 season is over, and rosters are starting to come together for 2017. It’s the perfect time to come together and evaluate each team’s quarterback situation for next season.
Quarterback issues were a significant part of the SEC’s struggles last season, but starters return at 12 of the 14 conference schools. The turnaround should be immediate. That should be especially true at Arkansas, where the brother of a former Razorbacks quarterback quickly took the SEC by storm.
To clarify, this grade takes into account a team’s entire quarterback situation, including backups. Just having a great starter isn’t necessarily good enough to earn a quality grade.
Make sure and read all our previous quarterback installments:
Alabama Crimson Tide | Arkansas Razorbacks | Auburn Tigers | Florida Gators | Georgia Bulldogs | Kentucky Wildcats | LSU Tigers | Mississippi State Bulldogs | Missouri Tigers | Ole Miss Rebels | South Carolina | Tennessee Volunteers | Texas A&M Aggies | Vanderbilt Commodores
Key returners: Austin Allen (senior), Ty Storey (sophomore)
Key departures: None
Returning production: 246-of-405 for 3,433 yards, 25 TDs, 15 INTs
Departing production: None
Arkansas could have been in trouble in 2016 after losing longtime starting quarterback Brandon Allen, who was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, younger brother Austin stepped in and was almost as good from Day 1.
Following a rough start against Louisiana Tech, Allen led the Razorbacks to a surprising double-overtime win over TCU in Fort Worth, Texas. Even though the Razorbacks lost to Texas A&M, Allen threw for 371 yards and two touchdowns to keep the game interesting in the second half.
It might have been inefficient, but only three players threw for 400 yards against Alabama’s vaunted defense: Allen, Chad Kelly and Deshaun Watson. That’s quite a list of college quarterbacks.
RELATED: Razorbacks overachieved in 2016
After Alabama, Allen’s production plummeted. In the first six games, Allen averaged 272 yards per game, completed 63.6 percent of his passes and threw 15 touchdowns compared to five interceptions. Three of those five interceptions came against Alabama’s secondary — it’s hard to fault him.
But after that game, his numbers fell to 256.9 yards per game and 58.9 percent completion percentage. More surprising, Allen threw just 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Three of the picks came in an embarrassing second half against Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl, a collapse all Hogs fans know all too well.
RELATED: Jury is still out on Austin Allen
Allen’s upside is becoming the best quarterback in the conference. In fact, I named him to my midseason All-SEC team after his strong start. But for that to happen, the offense must build around Allen.
Arkansas loses three of its top four receivers to graduation: Keon Hatcher, Drew Morgan and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle. In fact, after Jared Cornelius, the next most-productive returning wide receiver on the roster is Deon Stewart — with a whopping two catches for 34 yards. Tight end Austin Cantrell should move into a bigger role. Regardless, Allen has his work cut out in 2017.
After Allen, the rest of the quarterbacks on the roster are unknown commodities. Ty Storey was the only one to get in a 2016 game — the Belk Bowl. He threw four passes and completed one for three yards in his redshirt freshman season. That doesn’t tell us anything.
Along with Storey, Cole Kelley should play at least some snaps after redshirting in 2016. Bret Bielema likes to redshirt incoming quarterbacks, so it would be a surprise to see incoming QB Daulton Hyatt play right away, even though he’s an early enrollee.
Arkansas might have the SEC’s most battle-tested pocket passer next season. However, the Razorbacks’ offensive line must improve to keep Allen upright. If it can’t, the options behind Allen are unproven.