Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen was frustrated by the performance of the first-team offense during the first half of the Red-White Game last Saturday.
The junior also understands criticism will follow him into the offseason after going 5 for 11 for 21 yards and two interceptions before rebounding in the second half. But Allen — who finished 12 for 21 for 108 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions — said he won’t let it get to him as he continues to prepare for 2014.
“You’re going to get a lot of criticism,” Allen said Wednesday. “Especially at the quarterback position. That kind of stuff, all it does, it can fuel you. I’ve had it before. Really, it’s just that motivation that gets everyone going. You can ask anybody that has been criticized, I think they use it as motivation. Obviously not the performance in the first half we all wanted, but a lot more proud of our second half and what we were able to do there. So I think, really, the criticism is motivation.”
Arkansas, which didn’t dive deep into its playbook for the spring game, struggled to move the football against the second-team defense last Saturday.
Allen threw an interception on his first pass attempt with a ball that bounced off receiver Keon Hatcher and into safety De’Andre Coley’s hands. The Razorbacks also went three-plays-and-out on three of their next four possessions.
Allen said the defense’s familiarity with Arkansas’ offense played a role in the start.
“We’ve been going against the same team for six weeks now so they’ve seen most of our plays,” Allen said Wednesday. “Especially when we were a little generic in the spring game. So some of the plays we were running that defense has seen hundreds of times. That’s always tough in that aspect.”
But Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Allen also missed high on some passes in the first half as well, which added to the passing game’s struggles. Allen threw one more interception before he and the first-team offense could regroup at halftime.
He went 7 for 10 for 87 yards with a touchdown in the second half.
Bielema said Wednesday the slow start didn’t overshadow Allen’s work with the starting offense throughout the spring. Allen never was challenged in a competition that also includes Austin Allen and Rafe Peavey.
Bielema said Arkansas remains confident Allen is their starter.
“I think everybody on offense would tell you that we believe in him and that we have a lot of faith in him,” Bielema said. “He doesn’t make a throw with the question in the back of his head — if I don’t get a 3rd and 8 throw here, am I going to get pulled? I think that goes a long way for a quarterback.”
So does the criticism, according to Allen. He said the summer will be important for quarterbacks and receivers to continue to gain more familiarity with each other.
Allen also said he won’t worry about anyone who believes Arkansas will struggle as long as he’s under center with the first-team offense.
“You kind of just let your play do the talking for you,” Allen said Wednesday. “So I’m excited to get into the summer, to get work in and to get going on the season. I think we’re going to shock a lot of people. We have a good team.”
Mitchell open to receiver?
Bielema said no one has expressed a desire to transfer since the conclusion of the spring game. That includes redshirt freshman Damon Mitchell, who initially wasn’t thrilled about his move from quarterback to receiver in the middle of spring drills.
Bielema said he spoke with Mitchell’s family over the weekend, while wide receivers coach Michael Smith met with Mitchell earlier this week. The conversations came after Mitchell caught three passes for 27 yards during the Red-White game.
“He seemed very, very positive and said he was going to come back and try the wide receiver position and move forward,” Bielema said. “But I’m not going to make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. I also did share with him if he wanted to move on, I’d work with him in any capacity to help him find a home if he truly wanted to stay with the quarterback. But I think it’s moving in the right direction.”
Mitchel, Lewis surgeries
Cornerback Tevin Mitchel, who missed the Red-White game, underwent what Bielema called a “routine” surgery on his shoulder. The senior — who also dealt with a hamstring injury this spring — is expected to be back in time for fall camp.
“If not the first part of fall camp, very soon thereafter,” Bielema said. “Doctors are very encouraged, it was a clean surgery, very routine, something that I’ve had a lot of our guys do in the past that shouldn’t be a factor at all.”
Defensive end Brandon Lewis also underwent a procedure on his knee for a pre-existing condition, according to Bielema. Arkansas knew about the knee issue, but Lewis continued to practice throughout the spring without missing any work.
“I give a lot of credit to B-Lew,” Bielema said. “He’s very tough, keeps it to himself. He doesn’t say a lot to begin with, but even when he’s injured he keeps it quiet.”
Loewen to defense
Arkansas tight end Mitchell Loewen didn’t participate in spring drills after suffering a knee injury during the winter. When he returns, Loewen will be at a new position.
Bielema said Loewen expressed an interest in returning to defense and will work with Arkansas’ defensive linemen this summer. Loewen initially expressed interest in playing middle linebacker, but Bielema said the line was the best fit.
“I am going to let him try defensive line,” Bielema said. “He’s going to try defensive end during the summer and roll it into the fall because he is a big body. And at the defensive end position, although I’m very happy with it, the guys we have there we probably need a little bit of depth and he’s going to be able to roll into that spot.”