There is no quarterback controversy at Arkansas — yet.
But that may change on Saturday as it appears both senior Austin Allen and redshirt freshman Cole Kelley will be able to play.
This will be the first time the coaches have known this early in the week they would likely have both quarterbacks available for the game since the Oct. 7 South Carolina game. Allen, as it turns out, was actually available against Coastal Carolina, but due to the score and flow of game, Bret Bielema didn’t put him in the game.
“I’ll just alert everybody just in case — I know the world works this way now,” Bielema said. “Cole actually got his foot stepped on, or his toe stepped on and got an extreme turf toe. So he’s in a little bit of a boot but is fully functional. Shouldn’t be an issue for him during the course of practice and preparation for the game. Just real sore, nothing structural. Just a really, really sore bruised toe.
“So Austin Allen practiced last week, really from Wednesday forward. He’s cleared 100 percent to go. If we would have practiced Sunday he would have been there.”
Allen started the first five games of the season. He has completed 66 of 117 passes for 850 yards and eight touchdowns with four interceptions. He gave way to Kelley in the fourth quarter of the South Carolina game due to a shoulder injury and hasn’t played since. Kelley has completed 84 of 141 passes for 1,002 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions. If both are fully cleared who gets the start?
“Yeah, I think we’ll get into later in the week to find out exactly how healthy everybody is,” Bielema said. “But I do think the neat thing for us on Saturday was we had told Austin we expected to get him in the game and there probably was not a better guy on the sidelines from not only working with Cole.
“I saw Austin step in when maybe we had a drop and he talked to the guys about making plays on critical downs. So his leadership skills have been outstanding and his desire to win. I think a lot of kids in those situations would maybe turn the other way or not be as engaged in the game. It just shows the competitive spirit he has. I would tell you this, I bet you no one’s pulling for Austin to play more than Cole. If that makes sense, and vice-versa.”
If Allen is the guy, how hard would it be for him to play against LSU in his first game back after missing four games?
“Although he didn’t get fully cleared until last week, he’s been involved in practice the two weeks prior to that, so it’s not like he’s coming in just cold this week and playing. He totally expected to play on Saturday. I think his team expected him to play, and because he’s gotten so many reps in practice so well it makes you feel good.”
Kelley is one of the players from Louisiana. He played high school football at Lafayette Teurlings Catholic. How excited is Kelley and others from that state anxious to play a game in that state?
“They’ll be excited,” Bielema said. “I think you’ve to be a little bit cautious with it. Any time you’re deal with guys that you know have a personal … For instance, Cole. Cole’s a young quarterback in his career that’s very excited. He’s always a guy that plays with high energy and high emotion and how he goes to his home crowd and he’s going to be a starting quarterback. That’s a lot of emotions for him to deal with. You’ve just got to try to temper it all week and get him to play within himself.
“Well, I think he can be the starter, absolutely,” Bielema said maybe realizing what he had just said. “There’s no reason to change where we’re going. I think obviously to give us the best chance to win, you’ve got to take that part into it. But again, like said last week, going into the game against Coastal Carolina and this week, we’ve got two quarterbacks that have started and done a nice job.”