Alabama’s Sa­ban praises Arkansas’ quar­ter­backs

El Dorado News-Times - - Sports - By Nate Allen

FAYET­TEVILLE - Pre­sum­ably the Arkansas Ra­zor­backs spent Thurs­day’s closed to me­dia prac­tice lead­ing into Satur­day’s SEC game at Alabama eval­u­at­ing se­nior start­ing quar­ter­back Austin Allen’s ail­ing throw­ing shoul­der while pre­par­ing red­shirt fresh­man Cole Kelley to start and third-year sopho­more Ty Storey as the backup if Allen can’t play.

The quar­ter­back predica­ment adds fur­ther fuel to the un­der­dog fire that has had odd­s­mak­ers cast­ing Arkansas as a 30-point un­der­dog in Satur­day’s 6:15 p.m. ESPN tele­vised SEC West game against the Alabama Crim­son Tide at Bryant-Denny Sta­dium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Asked about Arkansas’ quar­ter­backs, Alabama coach Nick Sa­ban points to the con­trast in styles with Allen (6-1, 215) of con­ven­tional size, but un­con­ven­tion­ally throw­ing for 400 yards with three touch­downs on Alabama in last sea­son’s 49-30 loss to the Tide while tak­ing a phys­i­cal pound­ing nearly ev­ery throw and throw­ing three in­ter­cep­tions, and Kelley (6-7, 268).

“Allen is a great passer. Very ath­letic, quick, can make all the throws,” Sa­ban said. “The sec­ond guy is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent style. I’m not sure that would change their of­fense, but when he has played, they’ve done more quar­ter­back runs. This guy is like 6-7, 270 pounds. In fact, when I first started watch­ing the film, I thought he was a wild­cat quar­ter­back that was a tight end, but as he’s played more, he has a good arm. He can throw the ball ef­fec­tively.”

What does Sa­ban look for if Kelley starts?

“I don’t know if they’ll change styles with him as the quar­ter­back so we have to pre­pare for some things that they could do with him,” Sa­ban said. “But we can’t re­ally change be­cause we don’t re­ally know and we’d be defending ghosts if we tried to fig­ure it out. So we may have to adapt in the game.”

Charleston’s Storey (6-2, 212), who was last year’s backup, brings a style sim­i­lar to Allen, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said, tout­ing Storey’s re­cent prac­tices.

Bielema’s Ra­zor­backs en­ter 2-3 over­all and 0-2 in the SEC com­ing off a 48-22 whip­ping at South Carolina, dur­ing which their start­ing quar­ter­back in­jured his shoul­der, while Sa­ban’s na­tion­ally No. 1 reign­ing SEC cham­pion Tide rolls at 6-0 over­all and 3-0 in the SEC with a healthy quar­ter­back, Jalen Hurts, daz­zling both with his feet and his arm, a great of­fen­sive line, four for­mi­da­ble run­ning backs, the SEC’s most renowned re­ceiver, a great kick­ing game and the gen­er­ally most feared de­fense in col­lege foot­ball.

To that, Arkansas coun­ters with none of the above.

But they do have pur­pose and they do have re­solve, Bielema says, which seems half the bat­tle that so many be­lieve Alabama, win­ning 10 con­sec­u­tively over Arkansas, has won be­fore it kicks off.

“The good news is we have good kids who haven't shown any bad signs of los­ing that hope,” Bielema said.

Bielema said he hasn’t seen: “Any lack of ef­fort. Any lack of dis­ci­pline. Any in-fight­ing. Any­body go­ing at one an­other. It's more of a mes­sage of unity and per­se­ver­ing.”

He can also look at an Arkansas ros­ter with some play­ers who were re­cruited by Sa­ban for Alabama, but chose to stand by Bielema and the Hogs.

On the de­fen­sive unit, se­nior nose guard Bi­jhon Jack­son, sopho­more de­fen­sive end McTelvin “Sosa” Agim and sopho­more mid­dle line­backer D’Jon “Scoota” Har­ris all turned down the Tide to come to Arkansas.

Jack­son said he never even vis­ited Alabama be­cause he was “all Hog.”

Agim vis­ited Alabama and was im­pressed, but even more im­pressed with Bielema.

“Where I’m from, if you get an Alabama of­fer, that’s the cream of the crop,” Agim said. “So I most def­i­nitely took the visit.

“Nick Sa­ban is a bril­liant mind. I like how he coaches and ev­ery­thing like that. Mad re­spect for him and ev­ery­thing.”

But he ob­vi­ously chose Arkansas. “I didn’t want to go to Alabama be­cause I felt like I be­lieved in Coach B,” Agim said.

“I felt like he was on a route to turn­ing this pro­gram around and I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be at the fore­front of it and not at the back end.”

Har­ris said he was al­ready com­mit­ted to Arkansas when he vis­ited Alabama.

“I just took the visit to take the visit,” Har­ris said of the honor of be­ing re­cruited by Alabama. "It was a good feel­ing to be wanted by (Sa­ban).

“But it wasn't hard for me to tell him no, be­cause I didn't have any in­ter­est in go­ing there. For other play­ers, it's prob­a­bly hard for them. But I was al­ready com­mit­ted to Arkansas and I think it was just a week or two be­fore sign­ing day.”

Red­shirt fresh­man re­serve de­fen­sive end Bris­ton Guidry and third-year sopho­more re­serve re­ceiver LaMichael Pettway, both left home from the South Carolina trip, are back in good team stand­ing and trav­el­ing to Alabama, Bielema said.

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