To those who closely follow SEC football, Austin Allen is mostly unknown, aside from a few basics.
What’s known is this: He’s the younger brother of former Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen, who just wrapped up his Razorbacks career in 2015 and is pursuing the NFL. Austin followed in his brother’s footsteps, starring at Fayetteville High School in Arkansas before signing with the Razorbacks, where he eventually became Brandon’s backup. Austin has attempted 19 collegiate passes.
The rest we’ll all find out soon enough after head coach Bret Bielema tabbed Austin Allen as the Hogs’ starting quarterback last week. The younger Allen will take the field as the starter before fans for the first time on Saturday in the Razorbacks’ spring game.
This is Austin Allen’s dream job.
"It's a great feeling,” the junior quarterback said Tuesday. “I grew up a Razorback fan so my dream growing up was to be the starting quarterback for the Arkansas Razorbacks. When [Bielema] announced it in the team meeting, it was a pretty sweet feeling, a pretty surreal feeling. I just have to keep working to keep the job and make the team better."
Austin patiently sat for three seasons, waiting for this time to arrive. He redshirted in 2013 and spent the last two seasons as Brandon’s backup. In the last year dating back to spring 2015, Austin's work ethic and preparation impressed Bielema enough for the coach to walk into offensive coordinator Dan Enos’ office last week and state his intention of naming Austin the starter, to which Enos agreed.
“[He has] lots of really, really good experience as far as meeting time, questions, the why we do things, the how we do things,” Enos said Wednesday. “I think he had an opportunity to observe his brother who had a tremendous season and an opportunity to observe a guy ahead of him who paved the way as far as preparation and detail standpoint of how you're supposed to do it each and every day, each and every week, in order to put yourself in an optimal position to perform Saturday.”
Sitting back and waiting isn’t easy, particularly in the current era where quarterbacks increasingly wish to play early and sometimes transfer if they don’t. For Austin, it was easier because, as Enos said “When your older brother is the starter you're a little more patient than everyone else is. He's over there wanting to be a starter but also rooting like heck for his brother to play well and for our team to win.” Austin has absorbed countless lessons from his sibling in the meantime.
"Sitting back the last three years, watching and learning from Brandon, it's been invaluable,” he said. “Everything about getting better as a quarterback, mentally, physically, it's been invaluable to sit back and watch everything. He and I play similar a little bit but we have some different traits. Coach Enos always says 'Smart people learn from others' mistakes.' So trying not to duplicate those mistakes is what I'm going to do."
And to hear Bielema and Enos tell it, Austin hasn’t simply relaxed while waiting his turn. Though he has a laid-back personality -- “Like Brandon, in a way,” Enos said -- they’ve seen his competitive drive and compliment his work ethic.
“I felt like he was engaged all the time,” Enos said. “This spring he's done a really good job. He's been a really good player. He's certainly not a finished product. There are a lot of things he needs to continue to work on. I've put a lot of pressure on him this spring from a mental standpoint to try to make things as game-like and try to create some chaos for him and some adversity for him because that’s what he’s going to see on game day. He’s done a good job.”
Austin is focused on keeping the job that’s now his and leading the Razorbacks into what they hope is another step forward in 2016. He may have had to wait but this is how he envisioned it playing out.
“I've always taken every day preparing like I'm a starter and feeling like a starter so in case my number was called, I was prepared,” he said. “I've always had that mindset. Other than being named the starter, I feel like I've prepared and waited my time. I'm just trying to go out, execute the offense and lead the team to the end zone.”