Hogs' Allen plans to trust defense

This article was published July 17, 2017 at 4:00 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Though with a mostly less experienced skilled supporting cast, senior quarterback Austin Allen vows to try less for the Razorbacks than he tried last year.

Let's explain. We aren't talking less effort, less preparation or less leadership. The fifth-year senior captain from Fayetteville vows doing more, not less, of all the above.

Allen vows to not put too much of the game's burden on himself, despite not having past go-to guys, such as running back Rawleigh Williams (career-ending neck injury), 2016 graduated tight end Jeremy Sprinkle and 2016 graduated receivers Keon Hatcher, Drew Morgan, Dominique Reed and Cody Hollister, available to help.

"For me, I just have to take what they give me," Allen said of attacking defenses during last week's Arkansas session of SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. "A few times last year, I felt like I had to make a play to get us back on track. I thought I had to get out of my comfort zone, and it didn't always work out. Punting isn't always the worst thing."

Allen amplified.

"This year if I get four yards on a 3rd-and-6, I know that it is playing field position and flipping the field," Allen said. "Knowing the scenario of the game and the down and distance will really help me out by playing smarter and staying in the flow of the game better."

If the offense has more confidence that its defense can force the opposition to punt rather than make the quarterback believe that he must go for broke on third down, it will help because there is little cause for it to believe the defense will keep the opposition from scoring.

The Razorbacks start their preseason practices today talking a good game about faith that their switch from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense will stop the run instead of getting run over like the defense did in 2016.

With Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts voted first-team at All-SEC Media Days and 2016 SEC passing leader Allen relegated to third-team All-SEC, the difference comes from Hurts being complemented by the SEC's top defense while Allen was trying to compensate for his team's defensive shortcomings.

Sometimes, he tried to do too much, like in his spectacular career-high 400 passing yards last year against Alabama that still resulted in a 49-30 loss to the Crimson Tide in Fayetteville. All-SEC Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick picked off three Allen passes, including a 100-yard return for a touchdown, despite Allen completing 25 of 48 with three touchdowns.

"He's a great quarterback, but we were just putting so much pressure on him that sometimes he would just make a bad throw or he would think he was seeing something that wasn't there," Fitzpatrick said.

Allen said his greatest statistical game wasn't so great and that Alabama's 49 points certainly shouldn't all be laid at the defense's feet.

"We kind of got down where we had to start throwing the ball," he said. "I didn't play flawless by any means. They had too many turnovers where we just gave them short fields and points and things like that."

Arkansas' offensive line will better protect Allen this year than last, senior first-team All-SEC center Frank Ragnow said.

If he had been better protected last year, the Arkansas line assumes this year that Allen would have been voted preseason ahead of Hurts and Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.

"Being his teammate, I obviously think he's the best in the country," Ragnow said. "He doesn't really care what people talk about. He's just worried about getting wins for us."

As for replacing the departed cast, Allen talks up sophomore running back Devwah Whaley and says go-to senior Jared Cornelius highlights a young receiving corps that will earn big reputations by this time next year.

"This time next year, you guys (media) will be saying, 'The guy who will be quarterback has a snack bar full of receivers,'" Allen said. "I think those young guys are ready to come out and make a difference."

Though a senior in football eligibility, senior isn't Allen's accurate definition. He's a UA grad working on his master's.

"We're very proud," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. "Austin will get about two-thirds of the way through his master's before he is ever finished playing college football for us."

Sports on 07/17/2017
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