FAYETTEVILLE — The battle for the Arkansas starting quarterback job is expected to continue throughout the spring. But the Razorbacks’ first scrimmage showed sophomore Brandon Allen has an early lead on senior Brandon Mitchell.
Allen worked with the first-team offense during the 74-play scrimmage inside the Walker Indoor Pavilion on Saturday, while Mitchell practice with the second unit.
Allen completed 11 of 19 passes for 137 yards with a touchdown and interception, including a 65-yard strike to receiver Javontee Herndon. Mitchell was 7 for 14 for 112 yards with a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brad Taylor.
"I would think going into today Brandon Allen might’ve had a little bit of an edge," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. "But I really like the way Brandon … Brandon Mitchell’s got great presence with the team. The kids are into it."
Each quarterback led the offense on a touchdown drive. Allen’s score came on the big play, when he found Herndon open downfield for scrimmage’s longest play. But he also threw the only interception, tossing an ill-advised deep ball that was intercepted by safety Rohan Gaines.
"He threw a couple of deep balls today that I don’t want, but he has been throwing the deep ball very well," Bielema said. "We don’t want to throw a prayer up there. We want to throw a completion. We’ve got to make sure that gets corrected."
Mitchell led the offense on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive late in the scrimmage. The drive included four penalties, but the Razorbacks still scored when Mitchell hit Taylor alone in the end zone.
The quarterbacks will get another scrimmage opportunity next Saturday.
"Like I say to the kids all the time, competition brings the best out of people," Bielema said. "I wish I had that type of competition at every position just because it puts a stress on the people involved. It makes you coach better.
"You can’t have enough competition in my mind."
The first open practice revealed a couple of position switches. The most noticeable was junior Keante Minor, who has gone from wide receiver to running back.
Minor had three carries for 4 yards in Saturday’s scrimmage. Bielema said the 6-foot, 225-pound Minor was "shocked" about the move at first, but has shown some toughness at the position in his first week as a running back.
"We’ll just try it now," Bielema said. "If it’s like we want it to go, it’ll stay a permanent move. … I just thought where he’s at on the depth chart at wide receiver, he’s a skilled player. We’d like to get him on the field and thought that might give him an opportunity.
Arkansas also has moved sophomore Davyon McKinney from cornerback to safety, while Jerry Mitchell has gone from safety to linebacker. Bielema said last week he anticipated a few minor changes as Arkansas moved into its second week of drills.
"I wanted to give the kids the first week to kind of let us see them, let them see how we act and react," Bielema said.
Arkansas fans may recognize the number worn by the team’s leading rusher during Saturday’s scrimmage (No. 33). But the player isn’t exactly familiar.
Walk-on Patrick Arinze, who is wearing the number used by former Hog Dennis Johnson the previous five years, finished with eight carries for 35 yards. The 5-foot-10, 254-pound back bulled his way to bruising yards during the scrimmage and is competing with Jonathan Williams (five carries, 26 yards), Nate Holmes (six carries, 19 yards) and Jojo Wynn (two carries, 5 yards) for rushing attempts this spring.
"He came as a fullback," Bielema said. "He’s got really good feet, balanced, extremely physical. He’s kind of like a bowling (ball) out there. He’s just as tall as he is wide and square. Which is kind of a nice feature to have him as athletic as he is. He just joined us in the second semester, walked on and has done a tremendous job."
Safety Defonta Lowe is not with the team this spring because he is concentrating on academics. Bielema said Lowe’s return to the team will depend on the sophomore’s performance: "It’s really in his hands, what he does in the classroom and what he does away from the football field is going to determine that." … Two players were injured during the scrimmage. Receiver Demetrius Wilson suffered a head injury after making an acrobatic catch on the first series and tight end Mitchell Loewen injured an ankle. Neither player returned, but neither of the injuries appeared serious. … Linebacker A.J. Turner also was limited because of a broken wrist he suffered during the winter. Bielema said Turner complained about a sore wrist a few weeks ago and the break was discovered. "He’ll have that thing casted up for about five or six weeks and then he should be good to go after that," Bielema said.