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Bret Bielema: 5 Key Impressions

Arkansas will head to Rutgers on Saturday for its first road game of the season and the question still remains who will be the starting quarterback.

Brandon Allen dives into the end zone on Saturday injuring his shoulder on the play.

Brandon Allen was injured following his touchdown run in the first quarter on Saturday and AJ Derby filled in for him in a 24-3 win. Obviously the quarterback situation dominated Bret Bielema's press conference on Monday.

Quarterback Situation

Bielema said he doesn't know at this point if Allen will be able to play on Saturday, but he also has to prepare Derby as well.

“On Saturday, AJ and the other quarterbacks will step into that role,” Bielema said if Allen can't play.

Allen's injury was ruled a bruised shoulder on Saturday. Bielema talked about it a little more on Monday.

“There wasn't anything structurally broke,” Bielema said. “It's just a matter of how fast his body can heal.

“I know it's a throwing-arm issue. It's not like you are dealing with something of a normal player. You have to be at full-strength. I wouldn't want to put him in harm's way at all.”

Bielema was asked if some gamesmanship was going on with him and the Rutgers coach since both had quarterbacks injured on Saturday.

AJ Derby will be the starting quarterback on Saturday if Brandon Allen can't play.

“I'm going to put the quarterbacks off limits to talk to,” Bielema said. “I'm going to go back to past history. My first year we lost our quarterback in the 11th game.

“We went on to win that game. Our next game was against Iowa and I didn't know if our quarterback would be able to go. I put all the quarterbacks off limits and allowed the other quarterbacks to get ready to go. We won the game and had an 11-win regular season and then got the Capital One bid. We finished 12-1 so I'm going to kind of play that same card.”

On Saturday, the playcalling was conservative when Derby entered the game. Bielema was asked if a similar approach will be used this week or if Derby will be turned loose if he is the starter.

“100-percent, we kind of felt like we would be able to run the football there,” Bielema said when asked if he would unleash Derby. “We felt like we could get out of there and obviously we did.

“Once we got up by the three scores I felt comfortable where we were at the way our defense was playing. To me there's a certain gamesmanship that you don't have to show everything you've got. Just show the things you need to.”

Bielema also talked about how he will divide up the reps in practice this week at quarterback.

“Obviously if BA doesn't play then AJ will get the majority of them,” Bielema said. “Austin Allen, I told him to prepare as though he's going to play on Saturday because that's what a No. 2 has to do. Brian Buehner will pull back from receiver and get some reps at quarterback. We will kind of go down that road if it looks as if BA won't be there.”

Austin Allen is a true freshman who helped lead Fayetteville to back-to-back state titles his last two years at Fayetteville High School.

Jarrett Lake was named the Defensive Co-MVP and Specail team's Co-MVP for his play on Saturday against Southern Miss.

“The good thing for him is with a new staff there wasn't really that much of a headstart for the other guys,” Bielema said. “He was around during the spring, we couldn't coach him the way we would, but obviously the starting quarterback going into the fall was his brother

“He helped him out during the summer and got used to the playbook and all that goes into it. I like Austin. They are brothers. They were raised by the same mom and dad, but they are completely different personalities. I think Austin is a bit of a free spirit. He likes to roll with the punches a little bit. I like that he has been involved with the game plan the last three weeks. He has been down on the sidelines and the signals and stuff. He has been doing a great job in our practices.”

Staff MVPs

“Offensively, honorable mention, Javontee Herndon and Julian Horton did a really nice job at wide receiver,” Bielema said. “Plays we called their number on and the blocking game. Alex Collins had another nice game, but our MVP went to J-Will (Jonathan Williams).

“Our defensive scout MVP went to Horace Arkadie. Defensively, our honorable mention went to Braylon Mitchell. We gave it to two guys on defense....Chris Smith, who also got the defensive lineman of the SEC this week, and J-Lake (Jarrett Lake). He was all over the place making really good plays.

“Special team's MVP went to a guy who has been rock solid all year. We actually had a couple of situations where on Saturday if we didn't have perfect execution in the kicking game guys might have been able to get a hand on a kick. Alan D'Appollonio has been great all season. He's a guy we put on scholarship in the spring. We also gave the special team's MVP to J-Lake for that play on the fake field goal. An absolutely outstanding play. Scout team MVP was Chris Saunders.”

Past History of Close Wins

Bielema also talked about how in the past his team struggled with schools the fans thought they could have beaten worse, but then how that team went on to have a great season.

Bret Bielema won a lot of close games when he was at Wisconsin against teams similar to the ones Arkansas has played thus far.

“I gave our guys a bit of a history lesson,” Bielema said. “One of the great things I learned as a head coach is you either rely on your personal history or your gut instincts.

“After a couple of games where everybody thought we would win by more or less, whatever is going on I just back on my history. One year we finished with 12 wins. We had a three [touchdown] win over Western Illinois. I remember coming out of that game they had a drive in the fourth quarter that could have cut it to 10 or 17, whatever it was, obviously, we went on to be 12-1. That was in 2006 when we beat Arkansas.

“In 2009, we had an eight-point win over Northern Illinois. We went on to win 10 games that year. In 2010, we had an 11-win season and had a 13-point win over San Jose State and played in a BCS game at the end of the year. In 2012, we had a five-point win over Northern Iowa and went on to be a BCS team that year as well. This isn't a road that I haven't crossed before. It's something I think our players need to be educated on and know it's a process. It's a process I think they're responding to very, very well.”

Rutgers on Saturday

Rutgers will bring a 2-1 record into Saturday's game. Bielema knows the Hogs will be in for a stiff challenge.

“Rutgers is a great football team with a lot of energy,” Bielema said. “They play very hard. Coach (Kyle) Flood is an exceptional coach. Someone I've enjoyed getting to know.”

Arkansas has played one game in Little Rock and the other two in Razorback Stadium.

“For us it's a chance to go into a hostile environment,” Bielema said. “Our guys can play that next guy in card whether it be eight plays or not on Saturday.”

Austin Tate will play for the first time this season after injuring a shoulder prior to the season.

Bielema said there's two things concerning Rutgers that he looks at as the team prepares for Saturday's game.

“Last year they were playing a lot of different coverages and things,” Bielema said. “There's a lot of plays they were able to execute (passing against UA last year) and there's a lot of those players back.”

Injured Players Returning

While nothing is definite on Allen, Bielema is expecting to get some additional bodies off the injured list for Saturday's contest.

“We get Austin Tate back this week,” Bielema said. “Otha Peters will be full go this week. Keon Hatcher will be back this week.

“So there's some added weapons to the passing game we haven't had.”

Offensive tackle Grady Ollison left the game last week with an ankle injury and cornerback Jared Collins got injured on a special team's play.

“Grady was in a boot early yesterday morning,” Bielema said. “When I went to the training table last night he was out hopping down the stairs. I think he will be a full go on Tuesday, there shouldn't be any problem there.

“I think Jared more than anything got dinged on that play before where they got the penalty. The heat and everything kind of got to him over on the sidelines. There's a good chance he's going to practice tomorrow if not Wednesday.”

Bielema also said safety Rohan Gaines, who has missed the last two games, will travel this weekend.

“I hope to have him practicing a little bit tomorrow, if not then for sure on Wednesday,” Bielema said. “Alan Turner is playing very, very well. It's going to be tough to get back out there right now.”

Bielema also said offensive tackle David Hurd, who left Saturday's game late, should be back as well.

“He missed the last two weeks of spring ball,” Bielema said. “It's almost the same exact spot. He just re-aggravated it. Not that he's going to miss two weeks, I think he will be back out there tomorrow.”

Sophomore wide receiver D'Arthur Cowan continues to get better after a broken foot. Bielema said he could be getting back on the field on a limited basis soon.

“He's out of the boot,” Bielema said. “We had a great recruiting day on Saturday and he was one of our hosts.

“He came out to the house. On Sunday, we will do an x-ray. Next week we might get him involved on some non-contact stuff. If we could get him in the running for the first couple of games of SEC depending on how he feels that would be a nice addition to have.”

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