The murky Arkansas quarterback picture got cleared up a bit on Monday when head coach Bret Bielema announced that four players—including senior quarterback Brandon Mitchell—have been released from the program and will seek transfers, according to the university.
Mitchell, a dual-threat quarterback who has played both quarterback and wide receiver in Fayetteville, could not overtake sophomore Brandon Allen for the top spot on the depth chart exiting spring practice.
"Brandon [Mitchell] is on track to earn his degree this summer and utilize the NCAA graduate transfer exception to play immediately this fall," Bielema said.
So what does this mean for Allen? It means that there's a ton of pressure on his shoulders.
Arkansas' depth chart at quarterback now essentially reads 1) Brandon Allen, 2) The Assistant to the Travelling Secretary and 3) a tackling dummy.
Sure, there are some other options. Brian Buehner, Davis McElroy, Taylor Reed and A.J. Derby are on the roster, but all signs point toward incoming freshman Austin Allen and Damon Mitchell being the primary options behind Allen once toe meets leather this fall.
Can Allen be the difference-maker for the Hogs? He looked solid in the spring game, completing 11-of-16 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown.
As long as he doesn't make mistakes, that's sufficient considering what Bielema and first-year offensive coordinator Jim Chaney are going to ask of the offense.
Don't be fooled by the small glimpses we've seen of Allen. He was thrust into action after Tyler Wilson went down against Louisiana-Monroe last season, and inexplicably asked to throw the ball all over War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock in the 34-31 overtime loss. He had a week to prepare for Alabama, which resulted in a 52-0 drubbing.
His stats in those two games leave a lot to be desired. After all, 16-of-38 for 145 yards, one touchdown and three picks won't cut it. But view those two games in the vacuum in which they belong and form your opinion of him as a starter based on this season.
Arkansas has the weapons outside to present a challenge to opposing defensive coordinators as long as it can present that other dimension and establish a solid running game. If Jonathan Williams can't make that happen, incoming freshman Alex Collins is ready, willing and able to take control. If he does, Allen has shown that he can manage the game to a point where the Hogs can be successful.
But Mitchell's move still puts all of Arkansas' eggs in Allen's basket.
No pressure, kid.
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