The Allen brothers have headlined the Arkansas football team for the past three seasons. The Razorbacks are entering Year 4 of the Allen cycle with solid skill-position players around Austin but also have an unproven offensive line.
That begs the question: Can Austin pass his brother to become the better quarterback?
Offensive line: The importance of senior center Frank Ragnow returning to this team cannot be overstated; he will be one of the best centers in the nation — and one of the best o-linemen overall. Ragnow is one of four starters returning along the line (left tackle Dan Skipper is the only starter who did not return). But the group didn’t do Austin Allen any favors last season with its pass blocking.
Watching last season reminded me of the beating Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson took in his final season, as both players seemed to be on the ground every other play. Arkansas surrendered 35 sacks last season, tied for 22nd-most nationally; only nine Power Five programs gave up more.
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In his three full seasons of starting, Brandon Allen was sacked fewer times than his brother was in one season. While he earned respect from teammates, coaches, players and opponents for the drubbing he took last season, Austin has no chance to play better than his brother if he’s on his back the majority of the game.
Head-to-head: Austin was said to be better than Brandon in high school. He won back-to-back state titles, while his older brother never won one.
Arkansas coaches said Austin would keep up with Brandon in practice while they both were on the team. And he takes more chances on the field than Brandon. Austin is a fiery guy that doesn’t want to live in his brother’s shadow.
Stats: Stats-wise, Austin had a better junior season in 2016 than Brandon did in 2014. Brandon had a modest junior season, throwing for 2,285 yards, 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Austin threw for 3,430 yards and 25 touchdowns, but did throw 15 interceptions.
The blame for a lot of Austin’s turnovers can be pinned on the offensive line. He was hit during some of his throws; other times he would get jumpy in the pocket and force throws. Still, Austin had the higher quarterback rating of the two junior seasons.
Offensive coordinator: Austin has the benefit for playing in Dan Enos’ system longer than Brandon. Enos is a better offensive coordinator and quarterback coach than Jim Chaney. Enos gave both quarterbacks a chance to sling it. Chaney shackled Brandon at times.
Experience: While Austin has had a better teacher for the majority of his career, Brandon had more experience. Austin didn’t start until his junior season.
Brandon was forced into the starting role as a freshman, following Tyler Wilson’s injury. Then, he began starting every game as a sophomore. Lots of game experience, among other things, helped lead to Brandon’s marvelous senior season.
Skill players: The surrounding skill players have been a wash. Both have had to deal with key teammates being injured. Brandon got to play with high-level running backs in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Rawleigh Williams and Devwah Whaley aren’t slouches, either.
Both quarterbacks played with Dominique Reed, Jared Cornelius, Keon Hatcher and Drew Morgan. Austin didn’t have an All-American tight end in Hunter Henry, but Jeremy Sprinkle was a solid option.
Defense: During Brandon’s junior season, Arkansas had one of the best defenses in the country. That unit shut out Ole Miss and LSU, and finished 10th nationally in total defense. The defense took a step back in 2015, but still played well at times.
Last season, though, when Austin became the starter, Arkansas had one of the worst defenses in program history. That is not a good feeling for a quarterback; you feel like you individually have to outscore the other team, rather than just simply beat them.
Brandon Allen had a spectacular senior season. He completed 66 percent of his passes for over 3,400 yards, 30 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Can Austin Allen duplicate or pass that? Yes, but he obviously is going to need help from his teammates on both sides of the ball.
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