Photographs by Ben Goff
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen (8) takes the field during a game against South Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Columbia, S.C.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema said he was optimistic senior quarterback Austin Allen would be able to start against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, but he stopped short of saying it would happen.
"I think that if we feel he's 100 percent," Bielema said when asked after Wednesday's practice if Allen would start. "Obviously as a quarterback the biggest thing you have to do is function and throw the football.
"If he's as good as he was going into last week he for sure would. But he's not quite there yet. I think a lot depends on how well he recovers from tonight and we'll look at that tomorrow."
Bielema said Allen has been involved in practice to work on the timing involved in the game plan against the Crimson Tide.
Bielema said freshman Cole Kelley's work last week in relief of Allen, when he directed two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, was good preparation in case he's needed against Alabama.
"It was good for Cole to get out there, and I think Ty Storey has had a good couple of weeks during the bye week and everything else."
The uncertainty at quarterback for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville has the Crimson Tide playing a guessing game.
Coach Nick Saban told reporters on Wednesday night that the 6-7, 268-pound Kelley offers a huge contrast to Allen.
"In fact, when I first started watching the film, I thought he was a Wildcat quarterback that was a tight end, but as he's played more, he has a good arm," Saban said. "He can throw the ball effectively, so the guy's a pretty good player.
"I don't know if they'll change styles with him as the quarterback so we have to prepare for some things that they could do with him. But we can't really change because we don't really know and we'd be defending ghosts if we tried to figure it out. So we may have to adapt in the game."
Bret Bielema said offensive lineman Johnny Gibson has rebounded well from a minor knee injury he suffered last week.
"Johnny looks good," Bielema said. "He did everything out there today. I don't expect any problems or issues with him. He's been in the training room and it paid off out there today."
Bielema said he anticipates Gibson would start at right guard with the same starting unit as last week.
Bielema said defensive end Briston Guidry and receiver La'Michael Pettway were both engaged with the team this week. Guidry did not travel to South Carolina due to an academic concern, while Pettway has missed the last couple of games.
"Briston and La'Michael Pettway, both those guys looked good the last two days and will be with us," Bielema said.
Arkansas defensive end McTelvin Agim said Alabama sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts looks comfortable in the pocket and better in every aspect of his game compared to last year.
"I feel like overall he's just become a better football player," Agim said. "He's like Joe Cool back there. He's just calm the whole time."
Alabama has not lost to an SEC opponent in more than two years.
The Crimson Tide have won 20 consecutive games against conference opponents -- including victories over Florida in the SEC Championship Game in 2015 and 2016 -- since losing to Ole Miss 43-37 on Sept. 19, 2015.
Alabama's SEC winning steak includes two victories over Arkansas: 27-14 in 2015 and 49-30 in 2016.
Bob Stoops, the former Oklahoma Sooners football coach who spoke at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club on Wednesday, said the Razorbacks' 2-3 start doesn't mean they can't turn their season around and that Bret Bielema is a "great" coach.
"We started 1-2 a year ago and ended up beating Auburn in the Sugar Bowl and ended up fifth in the country," said Stoops, whose final team was 11-2. "So you've just got to have some patience and keep improving through the season.
"I believe in [Bielema]. He's an excellent coach so I hope they can finish the year strong."
Stoops said coaches can't blame injuries for why their team might be struggling. The Razorbacks lost top tailback Rawleigh Williams, top cornerback Ryan Pulley and top receiver Jared Cornelius to season-ending injuries, and in Williams' case, a career-ending injury.
"I can say it now that I'm not coaching, but you get a few key injuries and it's hard to overcome them," Stoops said. "[Bielema] can't come out and say it ... but they affect you.
"To have a deaf ear to that and a blind eye, you're not being realistic. Sometimes you lose some key guys and it makes it hard at this level."
Hogs in Big 12?
Bob Stoops told the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club that he believes Arkansas would be a good fit for the Big 12.
"I think geographically it would be a home run," Stoops said. "Can you imagine [a] series every year with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU? All within driving distance.
"I think it would give you an advantage recruiting the state of Texas, playing in the state of Texas."
Stoops said the Big 12 would benefit from having the Razorbacks, too.
Being in the Big 12 as opposed to the SEC, Stoops said he understood that it might not be as financially lucrative for Arkansas.
"But sometimes you've got to look just beyond a little bit financially of what might really be best for the program, the fans," he said.
Alabama receiver Robert Foster fumbled against Texas A&M after making a catch last week and the ball was recovered by Aggies safety DeShawn Capers-Smith for the Crimson Tide's first turnover of the year.
The Tide went 638 offensive plays between turnovers.
Alabama's last turnover had been in last year's regular season finale, when Auburn true freshman Daniel Thomas had two interceptions off Jalen Hurts in the Iron Bowl.
Happy for Cyclones
Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads recruited and coached many of the Iowa State players who won 38-31 at No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday.
Rhoads was Iowa State's head coach from 2009-2015.
"It was a tremendous victory," Rhoads said. "I'm very happy for those kids."
The Cyclones beat the Sooners for the first time since 1990 and improved to 6-74-2 all-time in the series.
"A couple weeks ago, they were talking about the Kentucky and Florida series and how lopsided it is," Rhoads said. "Take a look at the Oklahoma-Iowa State numbers and look how lopsided they are. They're ugggg-ly. For a team and a staff to finally go get that W, I'm very happy for them."
Sports on 10/12/2017
NWADG.com for only
$0.99 for the first month.