Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen took some snaps Tuesday during the Razorbacks’ first full practice in preparation for No. 10 Texas A&M.
But the sophomore still hasn’t been cleared to throw the football, according to offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
“He took a few snaps, but just snaps,” Chaney said. “That’s what he did (Tuesday). That’ll be on (trainer) Matt (Summers) to decide when he can do all that stuff.”
Allen has been sidelined since suffering an injury to his throwing shoulder during the first quarter of the 24-3 win against Southern Miss on Sept. 14. He missed last Saturday’s game at Rutgers and remains questionable for Arkansas’ Southeastern Conference opener in Razorback Stadium.
Backup A.J. Derby continued to work with Arkansas’ offense in preparation for his second straight start. Arkansas quarterbacks are off limits for media interviews once again this week, but Chaney said Derby — who completed 14 of 26 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown at Rutgers — continues to grow in his new role.
“I think he did a real good job (Tuesday) with all the new install,” Chaney said. “I think he’s improving every time. The quarterback position, you can’t manufacture that experience. Every time he’s walking into the huddle now a little bit more confident than he did a week ago. So, that’s a good thing.”
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Monday that Allen’s availability will continue to be monitored on a daily basis. He said Allen — who has threw for 388 yards with 5 touchdowns and an interception before suffering his shoulder injury — would be back in the huddle as soon as he’s given clearance from Arkansas’ medical staff.
Derby is scheduled to start if Allen can’t play against Texas A&M, while freshman Austin Allen will remain the Razorbacks’ No. 2 quarterback.
“I’m proud of Derby,” Arkansas guard Brey Cook said. “He’s a great quarterback. He’s a great athlete. I know that he’ll come out this weekend and do well if he plays. If he’s the guy, he’ll do well. If Brandon is the guy, Brandon will do great as well.”
Two members of Arkansas’ offensive staff used to work with Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin at Purdue.
Chaney was Purdue’s offensive coordinator under Joe Tiller from 1997-2005 and had Sumlin as his wide receivers coach for three years (1998-2000). Sumlin left after the 2000 season to become the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M.
“I think Kevin Sumlin’s one of the best gentlemen in the world,” Chaney said. “He’s got a wonderful wife, a gorgeous family, a good human being, a good friend. Very bright. Well deserved all the success and good things that come his way.”
Arkansas running backs coach Joel Thomas was a graduate assistant at Purdue in 2000-01 and worked with Sumlin for one season.
“I know Kevin very well,” Thomas said. “I respect what he’s done at Texas A&M and I’m excited for this opportunity for this first time to coach against him.”
Receiver D’Arthur Cowan was on the practice field Tuesday, working his way back from the broken foot that sideline him for four games.
“I’ve just been training hard, going through treatments with Matt Summers,” Cowan said. “He said he was going to get me right and get me ready for this comeback. So I’m just taking it day-by-day. It’s a process.”
Cowan said he’s not sure how much he’ll be involved Saturday, but hopes to make his season debut against Texas A&M. His return would help a group of receivers led by seniors Javontee Herndon, Keon Hatcher and Julian Horton.
Hatcher returned from a hamstring injury last week to lead the Razorbacks with four catches for 45 yards in the Rutgers loss.
“He was having a heck of a camp and unfortunately had an injury,” Arkansas receivers coach Michael Smith said about Cowan. “He’s been up to my office just itching to get back. He went through practice (Tuesday) and did some good things. It was good to see him out there in his pads. If he comes back to full strength, he’s definitely going to be a help to this football team.”
Chaney didn’t have to think long before electing to call a halfback pass in the third quarter at Rutgers. He said none of Arkansas’ coaches did.
“I think that was one of the easiest calls collectively as a staff we’ve ever had,” Chaney said. “I think everybody said it at the same time, ‘Let’s throw the toss pass.’”
Chaney said the circumstances made it an easy decision. Arkansas was leading 17-7 and had just forced a fumble to take over in Texas A&M territory.
Derby pitched the ball to Williams, who rolled right and threw a touchdown pass to tight end Hunter Henry. It was the first touchdown pass of Williams’ career and the first touchdown catch for Henry, giving the Razorbacks a 24-7 lead.
“There’s many, many, many more hard calls than that one,” Chaney said.