Every team needs a quarterback. It doesn’t matter how good your running backs are or how big your offensive line is. Every team needs a quarterback.
Arkansas is no different. The Razorbacks are the only team in the SEC that can boast a pair of returning 1,000-yard rushers in Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. They have an offensive line that averages 320 pounds per player. And yet, the critical piece, the piece that can make or break the season, is quarterback Brandon Allen.
“In any offense, at any level of football in my opinion, you’ll go as your quarterback goes,” first-year offensive coordinator Dan Enos told ESPN.com. “I certainly think that will be the case with us, and if [Brandon] has a great year, I think we’ll have a great year.”
Allen wasn’t bad last year. In fact, he had his best year statistically at Arkansas, throwing for 2,285 yards and 20 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Despite all of that, he remains the scapegoat when the team struggles. He’s the first one to blame when the team loses and the last one to get credit when it wins.
That’s where Enos comes in. The former Central Michigan head coach has worked with quarterbacks for almost his entire career. Not surprisingly, he was once a quarterback himself at Michigan State, so he can relate to Allen and what he’s going through. He’s been through it.
“You have more respect for what he’s saying because he’s been there before and he’s done it,” Allen said. “Anytime he gives you pointers here and there, you respect what he’s saying.”
It also helps that Enos has coached players like Drew Stanton and Gino Guidugli, both of whom went on to play professionally. At Central Michigan, his quarterbacks threw for over 3,000 yards in four of the five years he was there, including last year when sophomore Cooper Rush threw for 3,157 yards and 27 touchdowns.
“The thing that’s exciting is he’s had a lot of passing yards and he’s had a lot of passing touchdowns in the quarterbacks that he’s coached,” Allen said. “He’s proven he can throw the ball and that’s something we’ve been building here more and more.
“Bringing in someone like Coach Enos is only going to help us charge up that passing game to complement our run game that’s already so great.”
Now, that doesn’t mean Arkansas is going to change its identity. This is still a team coached by Bret Bielema. But what it does mean is that maybe Allen, with the help of Enos, can finally take that next step and become one of the conference’s upper-echelon quarterbacks. Maybe he can finally earn the admiration and respect from Razorbacks fans.
He might not get all the glory, but this is Allen’s team. And Enos has no problem handing over the keys to the offense, as long as he understands it.
“Our offense is very quarterback friendly,” Enos said. “The more a guy can understand what you’re doing, the more freedom and the more flexibility he has within the offense to take advantage of certain things.
“There are different things, absolutely, but he’s doing very well with it. The installs are going not fast and not slow, somewhere in the middle, but for Brandon, I can speed the installation up even quicker because he gets it and he gets it very, very quickly.”
That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, as this is the fourth different offensive coordinator Allen has had since arriving in Fayetteville. From Garrick McGee to Paul Petrino to Jim Chaney to Enos, the fifth-year senior knows all about learning a new offense.
"There’s a good and bad with that," Enos said. "The good is he’s run a lot of different things. He’s got the ability to say, ‘Oh yeah, we ran something like that similar with Coach Petrino and he called it this.’ It’s almost like talking to a coach that you came on staff with."
Maybe the fourth time will be a charm for Allen. Arkansas sure hopes so. Because just like every other team in college football, it needs a quarterback.