When Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen joined the Razorbacks program behind older brother and fellow quarterback Brandon, head coach Bret Bielema told the younger Allen there would be three advantages to the situation.
“Austin's a smart dude,” Bielema said. “When (Brandon) became the starter and Austin was coming in, I said, ‘Hey, here's three things you can do. You can sit and watch your brother play, and that's kind of cool. You can also learn through your brother's failures, which isn't going to be a lot of fun, but still watch it happen. And the third this thing is you can enjoy the success and understand why it happened.’”
Allen has quickly shown the time backing up his brother has paid off. He took over the reigns from his brother in 2016, throwing for 3,430 yards and 25 touchdowns. Though the Razorbacks’ season ended on a lackluster note, Allen has proved himself worthy of being the Arkansas quarterback and potentially one of the top quarterbacks in the conference.
“I think there’s a lot of talent this year in the SEC at the quarterback position,” Allen said. “I got thrown into the fire last year and handled it really well. There’s such a good group of quarterbacks up and down the league.”
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The goal now for the senior is to lead the Razorbacks offense through a time of transition. Arkansas has lost five starters on offense from the 2016 team, including the team leader in receiving yards (Drew Morgan) and rushing yards (Alex Collins).
Allen complemented some of the new pieces the team will utilize such as South Carolina transfer David Williams, but it’s no secret most will look to Allen, who had the most passing yards in the SEC among quarterbacks returning in 2017, to lead the way.
According to senior center Frank Ragnow, leading is nothing new for his quarterback.
“The one thing I’ve noticed the most is him grow as a leader. That’s been cool to see,” Ragnow said. “He’s one of the hardest workers I know, and it’s exciting to see. He’s more of the more nutrition freaks ever. He dials into that, and he’s dialed into his fitness. He watches a lot of film. It’s exciting to watch him grow.”
Allen’s leadership has been developed over time, something many quarterbacks in today’s college football don’t make good on. In an age when graduate transfers have become prominent, Allen has shown how staying put has its upsides.
Whether it’s a Razorback who joined the team this spring or has been around for four or more years, Allen has gotten the chance to learn their game and try to influence their play.
“I want to be the example for the younger guys for what the program is supposed to look like and what it’s supposed to be like,” Allen said. “Having that brotherhood with my teammates and how much I care for them and they care for me is special.”
Bielema lauded his quarterback, who he believes has flown under the radar in the conversation of the top quarterbacks in the conference. He said it might be a product of the program lacking a “sexiness factor” considering the lack of top prospects that make up the Arkansas roster.
That celebrity-like pop isn’t what Bielema nor Allen seek, anyways.
“We at Arkansas try to prove what we are by numbers, by doing things we actually can put own down on paper and believe them,” Bielema said. “Not a lot of hype or a lot of hubba-hubba. It's just what have you done.”
Allen put up a strong first season as the Razorbacks signal caller in 2016. According to Bielema, he’ll be hands off as he watches the former “little brother” try to do deliver even bigger things than his brother accomplished.
“I wouldn't do anything but truly sit back and watch a guy that's going to be able to go to some heights that people never thought he would be able to do,” Bielema said. “In the end, he'll probably be the one smiling.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports