Last season: 7-6 (2-6 SEC)
Opener: Sept. 5 vs. UTEP (3:30 p.m. on ESPNU)
Fun fact: Brandon Allen was Rivals.com’s No. 5 pro-style quarterback in 2011, ranking behind Jeff Driskel, Cody Kessler, Max Wittek and Christian LeMay.
When Brandon Allen signed with Arkansas in the winter of 2011, the quarterback torch for head coach Bobby Petrino's pass-happy Razorbacks was being handed from Ryan Mallett to Tyler Wilson.
Allen never had the chance to direct that aerial assault, because Petrino was forced out in the spring of 2012 for lying to athletic director Jeff Long about an extramarital affair. Arkansas employed John L. Smith on an interim basis that year before hiring Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, who quickly implemented a ground attack that has been led the past two seasons by tailbacks Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins.
Williams and Collins each surpassed 1,000 rushing yards last year and could do so again this season, but has Allen ever asked Bielema if he could sling it around 50 times just one game?
"That's not my style," Allen said last week at Southeastern Conference Media Days in Hoover, Ala. "I like to win games, and whatever offense we need to use to win games is my type of offense. I came into that style of offense when I first got recruited, and then it switched to more of a pro-style approach. Whatever it takes to win games.
"Plus, it's a lot easier on me, especially with the two great backs and the great offensive line that we have. We're a big-time offense that's hard to stop."
Allen is coming off a redshirt junior season in which he completed 190 of 339 passes (56 percent) for 2,285 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. While he had at least 40 attempts when the Razorbacks had to rally against Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi State, Allen remains better known for handing off to his touted tailbacks.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from Fayetteville has 25 career starts, the most among league quarterbacks, but he isn't even gathering All-SEC third-team consideration this summer.
"Brandon Allen has persevered a lot," Bielema said. "He's already graduated, and I think he's in a position to have an outstanding year. Hopefully he'll be the best quarterback in the SEC at the end of the year, and he's given me every indication why that may happen."
Allen was Rivals.com's No. 5 pro-style quarterback in 2011 and redshirted his first season, when the Razorbacks went 11-2 and won the Cotton Bowl. In the debacle that was the 2012 season following Petrino's dismissal, Allen made one start for an injured Wilson against top-ranked Alabama, a game the Razorbacks lost 52-0 at home.
The Razorbacks went 4-8 in Smith's one season and were 3-9 in Bielema's debut year, losing 52-0 to Alabama again. Allen was the league's only starting quarterback to complete fewer than 50 percent of his passes in 2013.
"I've had ups and I've had downs, and I'm pretty sure you can say that about anybody's career," Allen said. "I'm really looking forward to this season and doing everything I can to improve from the years past. I have a lot more experience and a lot higher maturity level.
"We're going to do certain things that will keep defenses from loading the box against us like they have in the past. We'll be a pretty solid offense."
Arkansas has nine offensive starters returning for new coordinator Dan Enos, with Allen, Williams and Collins joined by receivers Keon Hatcher and Cody Hollister, tight end Hunter Henry and four linemen. The Razorbacks had the surprise defense in the league last year, shutting out LSU and Ole Miss on consecutive Saturdays, but they must replace Darius Philon and Trey Flowers up front, as well as linebacker Martrell Spaight.
The Razorbacks bounced back from consecutive losing seasons by going 7-6 last year, clinching the winning record with a 31-7 thumping of Texas in the Texas Bowl. Bielema described the feeling of Arkansas kneeling on the 2-yard line in the final seconds against the Longhorns as "borderline erotic," but nobody is referring to that as the finish line.
"Everybody is on the same page as far as the 7-6 season," Allen said. "We are excited about the direction we're headed in and some of the things we've accomplished, but in no way are we satisfied. We have the talent and the players to be much better than that.
"We expect to win the (SEC) West, and we expect not to lose a game. We hear the outside expectations, but our expectations are to win every game."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
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