The much-hyped quarterback competition ended without much fuss on Thursday when Bret Bielema named Austin Allen the official starter for the Razorbacks. Now that it's over, we can begin to take a closer look at what we might be able to expect from Allen and offensive coordinator Dan Enos this fall.
Does Austin fill into the exact same role as his older sibling, the same game plan, and play calling? Or, more likely and this happens at every program, there will be different strengths that the offensive staff cater to, and weaknesses that they will try to mask. Dan Enos certainly has been able to impart his style of QB play on Allen over the last year and knows the exact skills and situations where he can be the most successful. Let's take a look at one area that will be key.
Possession & 10s
"P&10," the abbreviated version of "Possession & 10," a term used to describe the first play of each drive. During the course of a game, a defensive assistant coach will chart every play run by the opponent, keeping a close eye on tendencies. One area they make special note of is P&10 plays to help anticipate how a drive may start.
Many of the practice scripts in spring football are geared toward this exact situation. They will put in P&10 plays, short yardage, goal line, third downs all in seperate installations. In my opinion, this group will be one of the most important going into the season.
The idea that we hear constantly of "staying ahead of the sticks" is the foundation of possession and 10 plays. The key is not allowing the defense to be certain that an inside the tackle run is coming on every first play of the drive. Arkansas did well in this area, especially later in the season when the offensive play calling and execution allowed many of the P&10 plays to pick up some nice gains.
An inexperienced quarterback like Austin Allen must not be put into 2nd and 8, 3rd and long on those opening sequences of a drive.
P&10 Rushing 2015
You can see here that Collins and Walker both had over 5 yards per carry average on those first down plays. An offense that can get that production on first down will move down the field in a hurry, but early in the season many of these 1st and 10 runs were stuffed for a loss or no gain.
Against UTEP, Toledo and Texas Tech there were 8 P&10 plays stopped for less than 2 yards. That also included 3 rushes that went for negative yards, which can be categorized as drive killers.
How well that group of backs and new offensive lineman can get rolling will domino into how the QB play looks early in the season.
Arkansas must start out strong in 2016 and begin drives with at least a 4 yard pickup mixed with some big shots downfield in PA to keep the secondary out of the backfield.
P&10 Receiving 2015
When Arkansas did throw on 1st down to open the possession they had a high completion rate. Many of those were on line of scrimmage read plays where Brandon Allen threw the quick bubble to Drew Morgan for an easy pickup when the defense was playing off. I will be curious to see if Austin Allen can make those same reads and if the coaching staff gives him that kind of freedom in the offense. In the first few games the plan will probably be more static.
Austin Allen skill set
Unknowns- Does he have a stronger arm than the previous QB? Can he throw outside of the pocket on bootlegs and rollouts? (Did a ton in HS.) Can Allen get out of a bad play or throw the ball away instead of making a costly mistake?
Knowns- In limited snaps against Ole Miss, in 2014 and in the 4th quarter vs UT Martin last season, Allen showed the ability to stay within the boundarys of the offense and let the players around him make plays. Allen can sling it downfield with accuracy, and had a clutch mentality in his high school career.
Allen's most significant playing time thus far in his career was filling in for an injured Brandon Allen against Ole Miss in 2014. Austin made a few throws and kept a lead behind a grinding running game and stifling defense.
If Allen has made some progression from 2014, and it's reasonable to think he has, and can be a reliable intermediate threat in the passing game this offense will be fine. Can it match the passing numbers of 2015? A few factors that might make that possible are the veteran group of skilled WRs and TEs along with a more familiar offensive coordinator.
My biggest question is: do you want to see Allen throw the ball all over the place in the spring game and make every media pundit start to build expectations again, or put him in some very tough situations and prepare him for the season while tampering some of the hype?