FAYETTEVILLE - Austin Allen says he hasn’t missed playing a football game he was supposed to be in since he began playing the game in the second grade.
So though working just on a limited basis in Tuesday’s practice after being sidelined with a throwing shoulder injury for the fourth quarter of Arkansas’ 48-22 SEC loss last Saturday at South Carolina, fifth-year senior quarterback Allen of Fayetteville expects he’ll be physically ready to start when the Razorbacks, 2-3 overall 0-2 in the SEC West, meet the nationally No. 1 (6-0, 3-0) Alabama Crimson Tide in Saturday’s 6:15 p.m. ESPN-televised SEC West game at Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
“I like to think of myself as a quick healer,” Allen said. “I like to think I'll be feeling pretty good by Saturday.”
What did he do in Tuesday’s practice and what were the results of MRI’s taken of his shoulder?
“I did handoffs and just kind of ran around and did some stuff,” Allen said. “Kind of just taking it slowly, day by day.”
He said he was encouraged by the results of his medical tests.
“It was good,” Allen said. “Got an MRI yesterday (Monday) and everything came back looking good. Just taking it day by day and seeing how it all feels.”
How did it feel Tuesday?
“It’s still pretty sore,” Allen said Tuesday evening after practice. “You feel it but it'll loosen up as the week goes on. I was in there with (trainer) Matt Summers all day rehabbing. It feels a lot better than it did yesterday. So it'll just continue to get better.”
Allen was advised that some on social media posted that the quarterback would be better off preserving his health and sitting out Saturday’s game against Coach Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, who are favored by 30 points.
“ Nah, I don't agree with that at all,” Allen said. “If I'm healthy, I'm going to be out there.”
Allen believes he first injured his shoulder when clobbered by a Gamecock on what initially was flagged as a personal foul, late hit.
“I guess that's why they have that rule where if it's not targeting they're going to pick up the flag now,” Allen said, laughing with irony. “But I don't know. I'm not Steve Shaw (the SEC supervisor of officials) I don't know the rules that well.”
The injury altered Allen’s throwing motion when he continued at South Carolina so he did test Tuesday.
“I did a little bit today, just warming up and things like that,” Allen said. “Felt good.”
Redshirt freshman backup Cole Kelley finished the South Carolina game quarterbacking in Allen’s absence and would start Saturday if Allen isn’t deemed fit.
“ I thought he played really well,” Allen said. “I thought he came in there and just kind of does what he does. He's gonna have fun. He's gonna go out there and throw the ball around. I thought he played really well just stepping up in there. He's a heck of a player. We see it all the time in practice. You know. He does what we've seen.”
In Tuscaloosa, Saban touted Allen’s prowess, recalling that Allen threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns when Alabama beat Arkansas 49-30 last season in Fayetteville.
Whether it’s Allen or Kelley, Saturday’s Arkansas quarterback would be better served if the Razorbacks somehow could run the well against the Alabama defense, which they couldn’t do against a South Carolina defense that is good but no Alabama.
“Nothing happened this past weekend that would shake their confidence,” Arkansas running backs coach Reggie Mitchell said Tuesday. Last week was a group effort. Everybody on the on the offense had their moments. They missed a hole here or a hole there. They are looking forward to going out this weekend and redeem themselves.”
Redemption seems the ultimate degree of difficulty for Coach Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks running against the high Tide, but Mitchell insists that fuels the quest for the ultimate redemption
“Like Coach B has told them, ‘How many times do you get the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the country?'” Mitchell said. “So we’re looking at it as a challenge. Guys are embracing the challenge and looking forward to it.”