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Arkansas Football 2018 Preview: Quarterbacks

Will it be Kelley or Storey leading the offense.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve almost made it everyone. Summer is almost over and it’s nearly time to stop wondering what the Chad Morris era will look like and actually see some games on the field. One of the biggest questions will be who goes out and leads the offense, Ty Storey or Cole Kelley? Since such an important part of the offense has such a big question mark, it seemed fitting to start the positional breakdowns here.

First a look at personel.

Main Returners

  • Cole Kelley (So, 6’7” 258 lbs.)
  • Ty Storey (Jr, 6’2” 215 lbs.)

Newcomers

  • John Steven Jones (Fr, 5’11” 194 lbs.)
  • Connor Noland (Fr, 6’2” 207 lbs.)

Who Else

  • Daulton Hyatt (rFr, 6’4” 196 lbs.)
  • Jack Lindsey (So. 6’2” 195 lbs.)

One Big Question: Who Starts?

The big question is the obvious one. All through spring it was a pretty even battle, in fact the two put up nearly identical passing numbers in the spring game. Kelley has the edge in experience but Morris looked set to giving both a quality shot at earning the job. He also made it clear that there is no lifetime contract being signed when one gets the starting job, so don’t be surprised if both see the field some. Actually, if the battle is this close going into the fall I’d be pretty shocked if only one played all season.

We’ve seen what Kelley brings to the table, and albeit in difficult circumstances, the numbers weren’t great. Kelley did seem to find his rhythm a bit after having to deal with Alabama and Auburn in his first two career starts. Against Ole Miss and Coastal Carolina (yes the defenses were much softer) Kelley was able to throw for 453 passing yards at a 63% completion rate, throwing four touchdowns and just one interception. He also had two rushing touchdowns. After that Austin Allen returned and Kelley just got some garbage time against LSU.

It could have been Kelley getting better as a quarterback, it could have been the defenses were worse (it’s most likely a bit of both, as it usually is) but the numbers for Kelley got better, and if he can consistently put out 200-250 yards a game at an efficient rate, then the offense can run pretty well. Remember, as we’ve pointed out, the goals of the passing game in Morris’ offense are not all that different from Bielema’s, the main difference is how they get there. A balanced passing game on standard downs, and an efficient passing game on passing downs.

This may feel like a big and long winded case for Kelley, but the biggest reason for that is we just haven’t seen much of Storey on the field. Not much can be said from throwing just four passes in 2016. He doesn’t have the physical tools that Kelley has, but man he tore it up in high school, you don’t get over 12,000 passing yards and not have some potential there, even in the Arkansas 3A division. The biggest thing for him is how much has the game slowed down for him. The few times he’s gotten on the field he’s looked flustered, and that is a cardinal sin against SEC defenses. They smell blood and they’ll go for the kill. He’s shown he can lead an offense before, it’s just a matter of if he’s raised his level to an SEC caliber yet.

Kelley has experience, can throw a better deep ball, and looked much more comfortable in the read option than Storey. For those three reasons Kelley should have the edge heading into week one. Personally, I think the offense has a higher ceiling with Kelley on the field, but he has to show good decision making for that to happen. As Morris said, there are no lifetime contracts and either can take the spot at any time.