Either Arkansas coach Bret Bielema doesn’t know or just isn’t telling who will start at quarterback against Alabama.
The Razorbacks’ go-to man, senior Austin Allen, exited last week’s game against South Carolina early with a shoulder injury. Redshirt freshman Cole Kelley filled in for the fourth quarter.
“The great response was Cole, right?” Bielema said Monday in a news conference. “Cole said if Austin can go, he’s our quarterback. I think that’s a great indicator of a guy being in the right frame of mind.”
When Kelley was called upon, he completed 8 of 13 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. It was his fourth game appearance. On the season, Kelley has completed 61.1 percent of his passes (11 of 18) for 186 yards and three touchdowns. He has also run the ball nine times for 42 yards.
Allen, on the other hand, has played in 26 games, starting 17, over the course of his career. This season, he has connected 66 of his 117 passes for 850 yards and eight touchdowns. He has hit on 56.4 percent of his shots. On the ground, however, Allen has carried the ball 22 times for a total loss of 15 yards.
“Allen is a great passer, very athletic, quick, can make all the throws,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said Wednesday. “The second guy is a little different style. I’m not sure they’ll change their offense, but when he has played, they’ve done more quarterback runs.”
But wait, there’s a third one: Ty Storey. The sophomore saw action in three games last season. He threw four passes. One was caught for 3 yards.
Don’t count Storey out. He has been getting reps in practice.
“The good news about Ty is, Ty is very similar in the fact to Austin, he understands that game,” Bielema said. “He gets football. He knows mentally where to ball is supposed to go. He knows our offense.”
This is an offense that has averaged 32.6 points, 185.4 rushing yards and 207.2 passing yards per game. Arkansas also leads the SEC in time of possession with an average of 32 minutes and 59 seconds per game.
“Their style of football is tough, hardnosed, downhill,” Saban said. “They can score a lot of points.”
And that’s what the Crimson Tide is preparing for because that’s all it knows.
Alabama doesn’t know who Arkansas is going to put in at quarterback. It doesn’t know if whoever is in there is going to change the Razorbacks’ offensive style.
“We’d be defending a ghost if we tried to figure it out,” Saban said. “We can’t really figure it out. We may have to adapt in the game.”