Quarterback Brandon Allen isn’t listed on Arkansas’ depth chart for its Southeastern Conference opener against Texas A&M on Saturday. But Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said he’s not ruling Allen out as he rehabilitates his injured shoulder.
Bielema said his quarterback plan remains the same this week as the Razorbacks begin preparation for the Aggies. Backup A.J. Derby will prepare for his second straight start, while Allen remains questionable after suffering the shoulder injury during the first quarter of Arkansas’ 24-3 win against Southern Miss on Sept. 14.
“If (Allen) at any point, even if it’s not until Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, says that he can go and the doctors give him 100 percent we’ll go that direction,” Bielema said. “If not it will be obviously A.J. again and Austin (Allen) as his backup.”
Derby completed 14 of 26 passes for 137 yards with a touchdown in Allen’s place against Rutgers. Bielema said Allen was nowhere close to being ready to throw the football, but he traveled with the team and helped Derby from the sideline.
“He’d talk to him every time he’d come off the sideline,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. “It was good to have him there. I’m glad we did that.”
Bielema is hopeful Allen will be able to practice on a “limited” basis Tuesday.
Allen completed 26 of 44 passes for 388 yards with five touchdowns and an interception in nine quarters before the injury. He hurt his throwing shoulder diving into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown run against Southern Miss.
“He’s a strong presence for our football team,” Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. said about Allen’s absence. “Him being with us, traveling with us, I think was a great thing. But you could see the disappointment in his eyes.
“Obviously I think the competitor in him wanted to be out there with us. And I think he will, within the correct time frame, coming up soon.”
Arkansas deep snapper Alan D’Appollonio was named the SEC’s special teams player of the week Monday morning. The junior earned the honor after catching a 24-yard pass on a trick play during Arkansas’ 28-24 loss at Rutgers.
It was the first time a deep snapper received the SEC’s weekly honor since the conference began recognizing special teams players in 2002, according to Arkansas.
D’Appollonio helped the Razorbacks put their first points on the board when he pulled in a pass from punter Sam Irwin-Hill on a fourth-down play in the first quarter. It was the first reception of D’Appollonio’s career and proved to be Arkansas’ longest play of the game, setting up Zack Hocker’s 41-yard field goal.
“It was kind of a group decision,” Bielema said about the origins of the play. “Myself, Charlie (Partridge) and a couple coaches, but that was something actually Vanderbilt had run something very similar against that against Georgia, I believe, two years ago. So, it was some things we had seen on film.”
There was one issue during the week that had to be resolved for the play to become a success: D’Appollonio’s No. 53 made him an ineligible receiver. Bielema said Arkansas had to make sure D’Appollonio was in an eligible number on the play without having to tell officials, who would’ve announced it before the snap.
“Obviously, when we changed it during the course of the week, that was something we didn’t have to do on gameday,” said Bielema, who called the conference office during the week to make sure they were clear about the rules on eligible numbers.
So Arkansas changed D’Appollonio’s number to 82 before the game and sent him out for pregame warmups. Rutgers didn’t notice until D’Appollonio snapped the ball, rolled out to open space on the right side of the field and pulled in Irwin-Hill’s pass.
“That was actually a concern of ours, that they might catch it in pre-game,” Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said of the number change. “But fortunately we were able to get away with it and good execution by the guys.”
Otha Peters was Arkansas’ middle linebacker for most of the second half Saturday and finished with two tackles in the loss.
Bielema said Peters — who continues to wear a cast after suffering a broken right arm in preseason camp — played well. But it doesn’t mean the sophomore is ready to overtake Austin Jones for the starting spot this week.
He said Texas A&M’s offense presents a different challenge than Rutgers.
“Obviously this game is a different game plan,” Bielema said. “Last week was a team that was going to run the football and the passing game was going to be something that he could survive in. This is a little bit different game here just from the perspective that their leading personnel grouping is 10 — four wideouts on the field and wide open. Little different running game. His cast status hasn’t changed, what he’ll be in, so that kind of limits you in certain plays.”
Arkansas announced late last week that Saturday’s game against Texas A&M is sold out. Bielema: “I’ve never seen Reynolds (Razorback Stadium) completely packed. So it’s going to be exciting. Hopefully a very, very loud atmosphere.” … CBS has exercised its six-day option for Oct. 5 games. Arkansas at Florida is one of three games being considered for the 2:30 p.m. slot. If it is not chosen, Arkansas/Florida will kick off at 6 p.m. with ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU broadcasting the game. CBS will make its decision next Sunday. … Bielema said Arkansas plans to have WR D’Arthur Cowan back from the broken foot that has sidelined the sophomore since preseason camp. “If he obviously has a regression or gets sore in any way we’ll back him out of it,” Bielema said. … Bielema didn’t announce any most valuable player awards this week. He said the weekly MVPs are only presented to players after a win.