FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – For the past several seasons, it was obvious as to who would start at quarterback for Arkansas. First, it was Brandon Allen. Then, it was his younger brother, Austin.
But the 2018 season is poised for a wide-open quarterback competition in coach Morris’ first season, and Morris has a handful of candidates to be his first starter with the Razorbacks.
In Morris’ first season at SMU in 2015, he went with dual-threat JC transfer Matt Davis to command his version of the spread. Davis rushed for a team-high 761 yards and 10 TDs, and also threw 2,263 yards and 16 TDs. After Davis went down with a season-ending injury in the first game of the 2016 season, redshirt freshman Ben Hicks got the call. In his two seasons as SMU’s starter under Morris, Hicks threw for 6,499 yards and 52 touchdowns (but also 27 picks) and rushed for minus-36 yards.
This season, Morris seems likely to choose from among this quartet: sophomore Cole Kelley, junior Ty Storey, redshirt freshman Daulton Hyatt and true freshman Connor Noland.
Kelley started four times last season in relief of an injured Austin Allen. Storey has seen scant time – he has four pass attempts in three career games, all in 2016 – and the other two haven’t taken a college snap. But a new coach often sees things different than the old coach, and it’s fair to wonder if Kelly – who is listed at 6 feet 7 and 263 pounds – fits Morris’ offense.
Time and reps will tell, but expect the competition to be fierce through summer camp and maybe even into the season.
Kelley is the only one with actual game experience in the SEC, so it wouldn’t shock me if Kelley gets the nod first. He’s shown he can stand in the pocket – he has a big arm – and he also has shown he can be a viable running threat. But Morris has made it clear to Kelley that he needs to be lighter and faster to best fit his offense. Kelley reportedly has lost weight – up to 10 pounds – and we’ll see what the scale says come summer camp.
Storey was a four-star prospect and a national top-250 recruit in the 2015 signing class. But his college career thus far has been a bit of a letdown. There were rumors that Storey would transfer after the 2017 season, but it seems Morris’ scheme intrigued him enough to stay. The offense’s tempo is going to match what he played at Charleston (Ark.) High, and that could give him an edge over Kelley. Can Storey take advantage of what basically is a clean slate?
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