The reviews from the Arkansas spring game are in, and senior quarterback Brandon Allen was one of the bright spots in the game:
Wearing a green jersey and going against the 2s, it's easy to dismiss the game as being set up for Allen to shine, and that is true to a certain extent. However it should be noted that Allen was under the same setup last year, and was far, I mean FAR better than he was this time a year ago. How much of that is experience and how much of that is the impact of new offensive coordinator Dan Enos is difficult to say, but he looked really good and ultimately that's all that matters.
Allen finished 17/21 for 230 yards and three touchdowns. No interceptions ([Bret] Bielema noted he hasn't thrown a pick all spring).
Everyone should know by now about the great tandem of running backs that the Hogs have in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. While neither played on Saturday due to injuries that should be long cleared up by fall, they each ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2014. With them running behind the enormous Razorback offensive line, the team should se set for plenty more rushing success in 2015.
Allen was solid but unspectacular last fall. Among regular SEC starters against I-A competition, he was seventh in passing efficiency at 123.03. He was also eighth in both completion percentage at 55.7% and yards per attempt at 6.5 per pass. In most statistical categories, he rated in the neighborhood of Patrick Towles, Maty Mauk, and Anthony Jennings. Those aren't exactly the most eye-popping peers.
Saturday was a spring game, and it sounds like the Arkansas starters were way ahead of the backups on both sides of the ball. That fact shouldn't be surprising given that hole that Bielema has been rebuilding the program from. It's possible that it was a mirage and Allen will be back to being a middle-of-the-pack SEC quarterback at best.
That said, Allen was far better in this year's spring game than last year's. The fact that he (allegedly) didn't throw a pick all spring is consistent with his play from last fall when he had the lowest interception percentage of all regular starters in I-A play at 1.5%. If he's both throwing with more confidence while preserving his exemplary ball security, it could mean a noticeable upgrade to the passing game for Arkansas in 2015.
The West division is looking fairly wide open, as every team has some glaring flaws and/or transitional issues. I'm not going to sit here and predict that an improved Allen will mean a surprise SEC title game run, but the Hogs have a chance to move up the standings quite a bit as long as they can stay healthy. It doesn't sound like this team can withstand a bunch of guys going down, but with some good injury luck, it can make some real noise.
Allen doesn't have to be the new Russell Wilson for Arkansas to surprise well to the upside in 2015. The great improvements on defense we saw from 2013 to 2014 should sustain into this year, and the running game will be one of the best in the nation. If Allen keeps avoiding critical mistakes and can make some improvements—push that completion percentage to above 60%, get that yards per attempt up near 7.5—the Razorbacks just might find their way into the top half of the division.