How important is the competition at back up quarterback when fall camp starts for the Razorbacks this week? Pit Trail Nation reporter Mike Irwin believes that with the way Austin Allen got knocked around last season either Ty Storey or Cole Kelley could have to answer the ball at a moment’s notice this fall.
“Think about how long it’s been since Arkansas had a starting quarterback knocked out,” (for any length of time) Irwin asked. “They’re due and if it happens the backup becomes very important. I thought Cole Kelley might have emerged as a clear number two last spring and he didn’t. There could be a problem assuming that Ty Storey is suddenly not a lot better than he was.”
“I think he’s got the size,” longtime Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Bob Holt said of Kelley. “He’s got the arm but in the spring in those scrimmages we got to see he had some shaky decision making in terms of trying to squeeze the ball into a tight window. He also has some turnover issues. I think Storey is maybe not as physically gifted but maybe a little more steady. So basically Arkansas fans need to keep their fingers crossed that nothing happens to Austin Allen.”
Jason Kersey of SEC Country had similar thoughts on the need for a strong back up to emerge behind Austin Allen. “I thought that Kelley could lock down the number two job,” Kersey admitted. “In fact I thought that he was Austin Allen’s heir apparent since last year when backup quarterback job took so long to resolve and Kelley was still in the mix up until a week before the season started. But now it sounds like Ty had a real good spring and Cole maybe didn’t do what he had to do. So this fall may be real interesting to watch.”
Allen’s chances of avoiding injuries might depend on the ability of Arkansas’ offensive line to protect him better than it did a season ago. Irwin believes that the team’s switch to a 3-4 defense exposed some pass blocking issues in the spring that still exist.
“Watch the dynamics between the offensive and defensive line (in August Camp) and see if it’s any different than it was last spring,” Irwin pointed out. “I think the coaches are looking for maybe a little better effort out of the offensive linemen.”
“Well they’ve got six guys who have starting experience,” Holt countered. “Frank Ragnow, he’s as good as any offensive lineman in the country. Unfortunately he’s only one guy. But they’ve got more depth which creates more competition. So I don’t know if it will be as good as the line from a couple of years ago but I think it will definitely be improved.”
While Irwin appreciated a more aggressive pass rush he saw out of the switch to a 3-4 defense in the spring Kersey said there’s a lot of inexperienced players having to make that transition.
“They lost so many players that were good players in the wrong system from last year,” Kersey pointed out. “I mean Brooks Ellis, Deatrich Wise, Taiwan Johnson, Jeremiah Ledbetter, they were all pretty good players. And Jared Collins. And now they’re gone. So now you have a new system and a bunch of new players so I think that might make for a rough transition. But the other thing is, I don’t think that the 3-4 will necessarily fix some of the problems on the back end. Santos Ramirez and the other safeties have got to play better and they’ve had a really rough couple of years. So the other stuff may not matter if those guys aren’t better.”
“They picked it up well,” Irwin stressed. ” You’ve had some fans step in and point out, ‘They’ve seen this offense for three years, some of these guys. Of course they’re gonna stop it. That doesn’t mean they’re going to stop other SEC teams.’ “
“So I’ll grant them that,” Irwin continued, “but I just felt like it worked really well. I was especially interested in the down linemen in the pass rush and whether they were more aggressive and you know that Bijhon Jackson and Sosa Agim have both said, ‘Hey we love this. We’re more aggressive. We’re more free to go after the quarterback.’ You gotta do it in a game. You can’t just talk about it but I was encouraged.”
“I think after last year they had to change something,” Holt added. “I think the fans would have gone nuts if they hadn’t done something. Obviously they did change coordinators. They put Paul Rhoads in as the defensive coordinator and changed to the 3-4. I don’t know if it’s gonna work but I think you would have questioned Bret Bielema’s sanity if he hadn’t changed something because it was really bad last year and it wasn’t very good the year before that. I think it’s like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day when he finally turned and said, ‘Any change is good.’ I think that’s what you say about the Arkansas’ defense. Any change is good right now.”
All three reporters agreed that it would not be much fun to cover the Ole Miss Rebels right now.
“Imagine Arkansas’ situation and remember Bobby Petrino being fired, John L. Smith taking over, what that whole year was like?” Irwin stressed. “Imagine throwing a NCAA investigation on top of that where you’ve already done a bowl ban and you may get more. Then say Danny Ford is suing the school too. You throw all of that into the mix and that is what Ole Miss is going through right now.”
“You know I always assumed Hugh Freeze was going to get fired eventually,” Kersey revealed. “I just thought that was coming. Everybody thought that was coming. But in no way I thought it was going to be anything like this. These salacious details. A Houston Nutt lawsuit being involved in all these things. Because obviously there were NCAA violations going on and obviously they happened under Hugh Freeze’s watch. So the fact that Ole Miss’ administration stood behind for so long, I think they are kind of looking bad. But it is incredible that it ended up being something completely unrelated to the thing that we all thought was going to lead to Hugh Freeze’s firing.”
“I think it would be a great soap opera for the SEC Network, Holt added. “As the Rebels Turn. This is what I would have asked if I was at that presser Thursday night: ‘Your defense to the NCAA is that your coach is a man of integrity and he would never break rules. Now you are saying you are dismissing him or forcing him out because of this long standing misconduct.’ So I just wonder how that is going to effect their defense of he never did anything wrong or broke the rules but you fired him because of misconduct. So I think that is going to be hard for them to answer that when they go before the NCAA in Indianapolis.”