It sure does seem like it's been ages since the Arkansas Razorbacks had one of the best air attacks and quarterbacks in all of college football. Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson provided four years of Hogs fans knowing they had a capable signal-caller under center.
Those days are now gone, though.
Reality hit hard last season in Bret Bielema's first year guiding the program. There were endless issues all over the field, but the most documented of the Razorbacks' struggles was quarterback Brandon Allen.
To say he had a rough go in his first year as the starter would be a vast understatement. A percentage under 50, a near 1-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and countless mistakes enveloped Allen's dismal campaign.
As bad as it was, now isn't the time to completely give up on him. In fact, now is the time to have faith in this kid and get behind him.
Before you start hurling insults and rioting, hear me out. Then, if you still disagree, you can grab your pitchforks and torches.
You have to think about the quarterback depth and experience of the guys battling him this offseason for the starting gig. Behind him are redshirt freshman and younger brother Austin Allen, senior A.J. Derby, redshirt freshman Damon Mitchell and true freshman Rafe Peavey. Excluding Peavey, who was part of the '14 class, the other three quarterbacks have combined for one start.
In fact, because Austin and Mitchell both redshirted last year, Derby is the only other quarterback to have even attempted a pass. He made his lone start against Rutgers in 2013 after Allen went down the previous game against Southern Miss with a shoulder injury.
Whether you like it or not, Allen has the most experience, and that counts for something.
Also, that shoulder injury I mentioned affected Allen's production a great deal. He may have only missed one game because of it, but he dealt with lingering effects for the rest of the season. As it got better, so did he. The numbers don't lie.
In his four starts following the injury, Allen completed just 45 of 114 (39.4 percent) pass attempts with three touchdowns and six interceptions. However, in the final four games as his shoulder healed and he got more comfortable, Allen connected on 57 of 100 passes (57 percent) for five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Allen got much better late in the season and showed real poise in the finale at LSU where he nearly led the Hogs to victory, completing 65.5 percent (19-of-29) of his throws for two touchdowns and one interception.
The good thing is he has carried that momentum into the spring. Yes, it's just spring ball and an actual game is a huge step up. But it's encouraging to see Allen performing at a high level.
In the team's first big scrimmage, he was very accurate, hitting 17 of 20 (85 percent) of his targets for 242 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He followed that up in last Saturday's 100-play scrimmage by throwing for 157 yards on 17-of-25 passing with five touchdowns and two picks.
His performance last weekend was enough for Bielema to tell HawgSports.com's Trey Biddy that he's the clear No. 1 right now (subscription required):
(Allen) is our number one quarterback. That kind of separated itself from the time we had our last game to the our first two weeks of practice. There isn't anybody in our program now that's at his level. Really trying to stress him and make him understand that. Got to get him to be uncomfortable. I want to really try to press him on.
There have also been some recent developments in spring practices that are pointing to Allen winning the starting job. According to Danny West of HawgSports.com (subscription required), coaches now have Mitchell working at receiver and Derby at tight end.
Those moves have Allen's younger brother, Austin, taking the second-team snaps, which shifts Peavey from the No. 5 quarterback to the No. 3.
Bielema is going to choose the guy who gives Arkansas the best chance to win. Right now, that's Allen, which means there's no point in ridiculing the kid or going out of your way to post on message boards and Twitter about how horrible and mad you are about the situation.
A wise person once said that you can't worry about things you can't change, which in this case is Allen winning the starting job. At this point, it seems inevitable. Instead, get behind him and believe that last season doesn't define him as a quarterback. Players get better, and Allen is working hard to do just that this offseason.
After last season, it's understandable that a lot of fans couldn't see him leading this team. But Allen is making significant strides and is looking forward, something all fans should do too.
Last season was last season, and it's in the past. Allen is separating himself from the pack and showing he's determined to make 2014 much, much better. So, have some faith in him and the progress he's making.
All stats courtesy of ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
Bryan Heater is the featured columnist for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. Follow him on Twitter @BHeaterRivals.
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