Matured Allen ready to take the reins at QB for Arkansas
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Austin Allen was talking with teammate Frank Ragnow ahead of preseason camp when a thought about the last few seasons occurred to the first-year starting quarterback of the Razorbacks.
''You know, I can't even remember the last time I've been hit,'' Allen said.
Yes, it's been that long - four years, actually - since Allen entered a football season as his team's projected starting quarterback.
However, after three seasons of largely backing up his older brother, Brandon, the younger Allen knows expectations won't be diminished in the slightest because of any rust he might have. And that's just fine with the 6-foot-1, 209-pound junior, who has used his time away from the field to transform his usual fun-loving ways into more of an all-business approach.
Well, nearly all business.
''I can't really wait to get just decked one time,'' Austin Allen said, unable to contain his excitement about the season opener against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 3.
If Allen's outgoing personality is a bit of a shock to Razorbacks fans this season, it will largely be because they are expecting the more-reserved style they have become used to over the last three seasons from Brandon Allen.
It was the same adjustment coach Bret Bielema had to make three seasons ago when Austin Allen showed up on campus. Back then, the quarterback - fresh off leading nearby Fayetteville High School to back-to-back state championships - made his mark by cracking jokes during practices and occasionally giving his social life the same priority as football.
It was an approach that rankled Bielema from time to time, and he made a point to mention his frustration with the quarterback. And of course, the Allens are very different.
''You wouldn't even know they are brothers,'' Bielema said. ''(Brandon) was kind of a more laid back kind of guy. Austin, on the other hand, is very competitive.''
From the younger Allen's perspective, one cause of the early growing pains was simply a matter of growing up. Another was the realization that playing time was doubtful early in his career.
He finally turned more serious prior to last season, when he was set to serve as the primary backup. And the extra work - from studying game plans, doing extra film work and mimicking his older brother's work ethic - paid off in the form of repeated compliments from Bielema and Arkansas' other coaches.
''The first year was on me, just not being mature enough,'' Allen said. ''It happens for every freshmen, I feel like, who thinks, `Oh, I don't need extra film. I'll be fine.' That just doesn't happen in college. You have to do extra.''
Because of the durability of his older brother, Allen attempted only three passes last season. However, he did see limited action in four games two years ago - including playing the entire second half of a 30-0 win over Mississippi after Brandon Allen was injured.
That experience played a role in helping Austin Allen earn the starting job during the spring, when Bielema said he was the ''unquestioned'' top quarterback on the roster. It was a position Allen continued to earn throughout the summer while working out with teammates five days a week.
''One of the things I always urged him to do was take advantage of the experience his brother was having, and I think he tried to do that the best he could,'' Bielema said. ''It's never the same, but I like the way his leadership has continued during the summer. I'm excited to see him take the reins.''