Bielema prepares for QB uncertainty
When Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema shake hands at the end of tomorrow’s game, it will not be the first time both men have met.
Former Scarlet Knight defensive coordinator Robb Smith — now the linebackers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — introduced the two at a coaching conference last year.
“Coach [Flood] is a very easy guy to like,” Bielema said Wednesday during a conference call. “He is up front. He is straightforward. He runs a very, very good football program. [Smith] and I are very good friends, and he spoke highly of Kyle and everything he has done in his career. It’s easy to see why. He’s very organized, very detailed and seems to play his kind of football.”
While Flood said Monday that the respect is mutual, neither coach is doing the other any favors when it comes to preparation for the opposing team’s quarterback.
The Razorbacks’ regular starter at quarterback, Brandon Allen, injured his throwing shoulder last week against Southern Miss. He was pulled from the game and has been limited in Arkansas’ practices this week.
Bielema said Allen is getting healthier every day, but will play backup A.J. Derby if Allen is unable to go.
“We filled out our roster for the trip that we send to the airline,” Bielema said. “[Allen] is definitely going with us. He will be a game-time decision. He hasn’t been able to practice as of yet but the good news with this type of situation [is] we’ve been able to get a lot of quality reps with our next quarterback [Derby]. … If [Allen] can’t go, then the next man will be in and we’ll take that challenge.”
But Bielema also pointed out it will take full assurance from both Allen and the medical staff for the former Wisconsin head man to put Allen in the game.
“This is a quarterback that’s a sophomore that I think has a very, very bright future,” Bielema said of Allen. “And I love the way A.J.’s handling practice. … So unless the doctors can guarantee me 100 percent there’s no risk whatsoever and [Allen] looks me in the eye and tells me, ‘I can guarantee I can go coach’ and doesn’t blink, that’s the only way we’d let him go.”
The Knights face a game-time decision at quarterback, as well, as junior Gary Nova continues to recover from a concussion sustained Saturday against Eastern Michigan.
Nova’s workload in practice has increased as the week progressed, but senior quarterback Chas Dodd has taken reps with the first-team offense. If Nova cannot go, Dodd will make his first start since 2011’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Bielema believes whoever lines up under center for Rutgers will give the Razorbacks trouble, though he has prepared for both quarterbacks.
“I think as a head coach you know whatever quarterback is back there I don’t think their offense is going to change that much,” Bielema said. “They didn’t throw the ball much with Dodd in there. They’re both very good players. If Chas plays, Chas plays. I know he is a competitor. I know he is a guy you can see really enjoys playing in the games. If [Nova] is healthy, I’m sure he will be out there, but we really can’t control that.”