Alabama v Arkansas

Two ‘ahead of the curve’ in Arkansas’ QB race


With Tyler Wilson off to the NFL after two seasons as Arkansas starting quarterback, arguably the main focus for the Razorbacks during their first spring practice under Bret Bielema is to at least begin the process of separating contenders from pretenders at the position.

One week into the 15 allotted spring sessions?  Two of the contenders appear to be standing a bit taller than the others.

In his first extensive comments to the media since spring practice began a week ago today, Bielema allowed that a pair of Brandons — Allen and Mitchell — have nudged ahead slightly in the chase to replace Wilson.

“I think there is no doubt on offense the key is going to be who is going to be our trigger puller, and I think Brandon Allen (pictured) and Brandon Mitchell both have shown that they’ve been ahead of the curve,” Bielema said in comments distributed by the school.

The fact that Allen and Mitchell would be ahead of the quarterback game just a handful of practices into the spring makes sense.

Allen, the presumptive front-runner heading into the spring, played in five games as a redshirt freshman in 2012 as Wilson’s primary backup.  The four-star member of UA’s 2011 recruiting class started one of those games — the 52-0 lay-down at the hands of Alabama — and completed less than 50 percent of his passes (21-49) for one touchdown and three interceptions on the season.  As the No. 5 pro-style QB in his class, and on paper, it appears to be Allen’s job to lose.

Mitchell, on the other hand, comes into his redshirt senior spring after spending the 2012 season at the wide receiver position — for the most part.  In 2011, Mitchell served as Wilson’s backup after falling short in that season’s competition.

Technically speaking, though, it’s a five-man competition, with Brian Buehner, A.J. Derby and Taylor Reed (no relation) filling in the roster at the position.  The latter two came to the Razorbacks as transfers, Reed from Memphis and Derby from Iowa by way of the JUCO ranks.  Interestingly, Bielema chose to extensively single out the latter when questioned on the battle for the starting job.

“I would say that A.J. Derby has shown that he is definitely a guy that can manage a game,” the coach said. “He has been in that position and impressed us. He is a thirsty kid, who is always eager to learn.”

While Derby may be at least on the periphery of the discussion at the moment — and Reed could eventually based on experience alone (nine starts at Memphis as a true freshman in 2011) — there’s little doubt who has made the biggest impression thus far.

“I would think that the more reps we can get to those five guys the better off we are going to be, especially the top two in Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell,” Bielema said.

In other words, and until further notice, this is a two-horse race for the Hogs.

Starting Navy S Kwazel Bertrand undergoes surgery, likely out for season

Kwazel Bertrand, Jacobi Owens
Associated Press
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Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.

Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.

“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”

Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.

Unitas Award whittles watch list in half down to 15

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 03:  Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks for an open receiver against the Texas Longhorns in the second quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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You know how I know we’re gradually creeping up on the end of another regular season?  Watch lists are being whittled.

The first major honor to do so is the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given out annually to the best quarterback who is a college senior or fourth-year junior.  The preseason watch list was 30 quarterbacks strong; the newest list has been cut in half to 15.

The most recent list includes one of the top Heisman contenders (TCU’s Trevone Boykin) and the top two nationally in passing yards (Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty), as well as a quarterback who’s closing in on the all-time FBS record for rushing touchdowns (Navy’s Keenan Reynolds).

The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three watch listers, followed by two each from the AAC, ACC and Big Ten.  The SEC has as many players (one, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott) as the FCS (North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz).

Last year’s winner was Marcus Mariota of Oregon.

Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Everett Golson, Florida State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Cody Kessler, USC
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah