Whenever the subject of Arkansas Razorbacks football has come up this spring/summer, the conversation — without fail — has turned into an evaluation of sophomore quarterback Brandon Allen.
What we’re supposed to judge him on, I’m not sure.
We know Brandon Allen is the starter entering the summer. We know even more pressure is on him now that Brandon Mitchell is gone and Allen has no real competition to push him this summer.
Can he handle it?
Hard to say. What I will say is that we can’t possibly judge Allen fairly at this time.
Allen’s career statistics aren’t much. He appeared in five games, tossing three interceptions and just one touchdown. He got the bulk of his work in a 52-0 blowout loss to Alabama in which he split time with Mitchell. Against the eventual national champions, Allen completed 10 of 18 passes for 60 yards and a pair of interceptions.
No, those numbers aren’t awe-inspiring. Nor are they defining of Allen as a quarterback.
Using his 42.9 percent completion rate in 2012 to determine what Allen will do in 2012? No thanks.
Likewise, let’s pass on trying to compare Allen to the two quarterbacks that preceded him. Tyler Wilson and Ryan Mallett are certified Razorback legends, right along with guys like Darren McFadden and Joe Ferguson.
Wilson and Mallett had considerable skills and had time do develop them. They also had considerable talent around them at the wide receiver and tight end spots. And the duo ran an offensive system that maximized their abilities.
Allen’s skill set is up for debate. He didn’t blow anybody away in limited viewings this spring, but we do know that one former coach said Allen had the tools of a “five-star” prospect, even if recruiting services didn’t label him that way.
Suppose Allen does develop into a pro prospect and follows Mallett and Wilson into the NFL. Even then, the comparison will be hard to make.
Allen, at least for now, doesn’t have the same offensive weapons around him. And the offense he’ll be running doesn’t figure to be anything like the scheme Arkansas Razorbacks ran from 2009-2011 (and attempted to run in 2012).
The Razorbacks are still developing its offensive philosophy under Coach Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Bielema said so in his post-spring wrap up press conference.
So we really don’t know what the offense will look like, though we have some clues.
Bielema’s Wisconsin offenses were among the nation’s best over the last three years in the red zone. His second Badgers team threw 347 passes, the most attempted during his time in Madison, Wisc. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin’s top quarterback of the Bielema-era, attempted 309 passes and had 33 touchdowns with only four interceptions.
We also know that Chaney is on record saying, “If you wind up being a four yards and a cloud of dust team that’s OK as long as at the end it’s pay dirt and you’re scoring points.”
Whether that style would actually be OK with Arkansas fans is another topic for another day. The point here is that Allen will likely be much more caretaker than playmaker.
Tyler Wilson attempted 839 passes over his two seasons. Don’t be surprised if it takes the next three (or more) years to match that output. As difficult as it might be, perhaps it is time that Razorback Nation adjusts its views on what an Arkansas quarterback is supposed to be. Somehow it’s hard to imagine Allen, like Wilson, leaves with 27 school records.
Evaluating Allen based on his first full spring as the starter, at a time the offense is still being developed? I suppose you’re free to do it, but I’ll pass
Bielema tells us Allen made strides throughout spring practice. Bielema, in fact, described Allen’s final two weeks as “exceptional.”
We have no way of knowing if that carries over to the summer or how that translates into the fall.
What’s clear is this: Brandon Allen deserves a clean slate. He doesn’t deserve any of the comparisons. Not to the quarterback he was last year, not the quarterback he was this spring and certainly not to the quarterbacks who came before him.