Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen described his performance in the team’s first preseason scrimmage as another “confidence booster” as he inches closer to starting the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Aug. 31.
But the sophomore also made it clear during Arkansas’ media day on Sunday the 16-for-17 outing wasn’t all his doing. Allen credited his receivers and tight ends.
“The receivers made a lot of great plays, Julian and Javontee, Demetrius,” Allen said. “They all stepped up and made big catches for me when it was tight. … I think our whole offense did a great job (Saturday) of moving the ball and being consistent.”
Allen certainly was aided by some big plays from receivers during the 107-play scrimmage. Some examples: Sophomore Julian Horton pulled down a catch in traffic to give the Razorbacks a first down. Tight end Hunter Henry came up with a difficult catch on a ball thrown high as well. And receiver Javontee Herndon battled cornerback Carroll Washington for a 47-yard touchdown.
Bielema acknowledged the production from the group Saturday night and again Sunday, when asked if he ever had a quarterback complete 16 of 17 in a scrimmage.
“Is that what he did?” Bielema said. “He had some pretty catches.”
Of course, Bielema wasn’t taking the credit away from Allen. He said the quarterback continues to grow and called his improvement the biggest of any one since the coaching staff first began working with players last spring.
Bielema also said it’s evident teammates “have so much faith” in Allen.
He said the proof was in their performance during the first scrimmage.
“I made a joke about it, but I mean it — those receivers, they’re going to maybe jump two inches higher to get that ball,” Bielema said. “They’re going to strain that much more. I can’t tell you how many plays I saw yesterday where maybe it was going to be an uncatchable or a tipped ball, and those guys somehow came up with it.
Sorting out linebackers
Bielema said Arkansas has highlighted three front-runners for starting jobs at linebacker: Jarrett Lake (weak side), Austin Jones (middle) and Braylon Mitchell (strong side). He said the next there in the rotation include junior college transfer Martrell Spaight, freshman Brooks Ellis and “probably” sophomore Otha Peters.
The top six did not include junior Daunte Carr, who was listed on top of the depth chart at middle linebacker after spring practice. Sophomore A.J. Turner, who started six games last season, also wasn’t included in Bielema’s six-player rotation.
Bielema hinted that Turner may be a candidate to redshirt this season because of the wrist injury he suffered during spring practices.
“Unfortunately for A.J., he’s got some lingering just wrist issues,” Bielema said. “So he took some precautions or did some things in spring and he just can’t strike it. The good thing is he’s got a year of redshirt, if we try to use that. He’s a willing soul.
“I love hit attitude. I love his energy. He just needs to come along quite a bit in the physical development to be able to play winning football for us.”
McKay to Cincinnati
Former Arkansas receiver Mekale McKay is transferring to Cincinnati.
McKay, who was not with the team when preseason camp began, was officially released from his scholarship and Bielema said the Louisville native was heading to his new school Sunday. McKay, a Louisville native, must sit out the 2013 season if he’s not granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA.
Bielema said he worked with McKay — who caught 21 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman in 2012 — to help him find a place to transfer.
“I’ve had many great conversations with Mekale, but the last three probably meant more to me as a coach than anything else,” Bielema said about the past week. “Just to know that he was being honest, I was being honest. I’m very, very excited. I called the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati. Eddie Gran is a great friend of mine and someone I think the world of. We talked about Mekale and what he could bring.”
Arkansas safety Rohan Gaines doesn’t plan to be sidelined long by the knee bruise he sustained during the Razorbacks’ morning practice Saturday. Gaines said he was injured when he “jumped in the air and just came down the wrong way.”
“I won’t be out more than a couple days,” Gaines said. “I’ll be back out there. I have a lot of stuff to work on. I can’t work on it if I’m missing practice.”
Center Travis Swanson said he doesn’t expect to miss much time, either, after sitting out the scrimmage with a groin injury. Swanson said a lot of his absence is for precautionary reasons. The senior said he’ll be “good to go” soon.