TUSCALOOSA – With two days until kickoff, Arkansas has not named its starting quarterback for Saturday night’s game against No. 1 Alabama.
Austin Allen, the Razorbacks’ primary starter, injured his shoulder in last weekend’s 44-28 loss at South Carolina, which led to him missing the fourth quarter.
According to Hawgs247 reporter Andrew Hutchinson, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema is optimistic that Allen will play against the Tide, but didn’t specify whether he would start.
The senior signal-caller was replaced by redshirt freshman Cole Kelley in the final 15 minutes of play. At 6-foot-7 and 268 pounds, Kelley has an unusual mold for the quarterback position. Not very many quarterbacks stand at 6-foot-7. In the NFL, Denver’s Brock Osweiler is the only one at that height with the league’s average quarterback at 6-foot-3.
While Kelley is seen as a wildcat option for the Razorbacks’ offense, he has surprised many with his arm, including Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
“This guy (Kelley) is like 6-7, 270 pounds. In fact when I first started watching the film I thought he was a Wildcat quarterback that was a tight end,” Saban told reporters on Wednesday. “But as he’s played more, he has a good arm and he can throw the ball effectively. So the guy is a pretty good player.”
Kelly finished the quarter completing 8-of-13 passes for 140 yards with one touchdown and an interception. The Razorbacks have used Kelly in four of its five games this season. He has a season total of 186 passing yards with three touchdowns and an interception, along with 50 rushing yards on nine carries.
Allen entered the season as a candidate for the Davey O’Brien Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. This season, Allen has thrown for 850 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder lead the SEC and tied for 20th nationally last season with 3,430 passing yards and 25 touchdowns (ranked second in SEC) in his first full season as the starter.
Will having to prepare for multiple quarterbacks alter Alabama’s gameplan?
“Well typically when I get asked this question, it depends on the style that the quarterbacks play,” Saban said. “Allen is a great passer, very athletic, quick, can make all the throws. The second guy (Kelley) is a little different style. I’m not sure they’ll change their offense but when he has played they’ve done more quarterback runs.
“We don’t know if they’ll change styles with (Kelley) as a 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. We’d be defending a ghost if we tried to figure it out. We can’t really figure it out. We may have to adapt in the game. But it wouldn’t be unusual, most times for us, whoever we play does something a little bit different for us. It wouldn’t be unexpected if it happened this week.”
Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) will face Arkansas (2-3, 0-2) this Saturday inside Bryant-Denny Stadium for the Tide’s homecoming game. Kickoff is set for 6:15 p.m. CT with ESPN providing the television coverage.