QB Development At Arkansas Not a Quick Study

Second-year Razorback tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. admits he's a big fan of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's offense. "When it's fully installed with players who've had the time to learn it and embrace it it's going to be a beautiful thing to see," Lunney said at Friday's Northwest Arkansas Razorback Club golf outing. "But it's not a quick fix. It's complex. You don't master it overnight."

A check of Chaney's 30 year background in coaching reveals an interesting change in philosophy. At Purdue a much younger Chaney was considered to be an early guru of the spread offense. From 1997 through 2005 coaches like Urban Meyer made the trip to West Lafayette, Indiana to study Chaney's system which was known for it's simplicity. Easy to install. Easy to teach. Easy to learn.

Chaney's days as a master of the spread offense came to an end in 2006 when he moved to the NFL as an offensive line coach with the St. Louis Rams.
In a brief two-year span his exposure to a pro-style attack convinced Chaney that it was superior to the spread if a coach had the right athletes and the proper time to install it.

He began testing his theory during a four-year span at Tennessee that saw Chaney work under two head coaches. When Derek Dooley was fired in 2012 prior to Tennessee's final game of the season Chaney recorded his first and only win as a head coach while serving as the Vols interim head coach.

Bret Bielema quickly turned to Chaney as he began to assemble his new staff at Arkansas in December of 2012. Bielema's six-year contract was no doubt a selling point for Chaney who knew it would take time to convert the Razorbacks to the pro-style offense Bielema preferred. Chaney also told the Razorback media early on that his stop at Arkansas would probably be the last of his career.

What Chaney did not know at the time was that Bielema had hired a tight ends coach who would become a sounding board of sorts for Chaney's first starting quarterback at Arkansas, redshirt sophomore Brandon Allen. "I know when I was playing I drew from the relationships and experiences I had with some of the older guys who had played quarterback before," Lunney Jr. explained. "It's a unique position to play at a unique university."

Allen did not have to explain to Lunney Jr. the difficulties of trying to play while trying to recover from the shoulder injury he suffered three games into the season.

"My sophomore year I had to get injections in my AC joint for four or five weeks straight on game days just to be able to play and it affected me greatly," Lunney Jr. recalled. "As I stood there on the sideline watching him last season I knew what he was going through. I knew how it was affecting him."

Having immersed himself in Chaney's playbook Lunney Jr. knows something else about what Allen faced last season. You don't just walk in and learn this system overnight.

"I'm familiar with the spread," Lunney Jr. stressed. "For a quarterback it's fairly easy to grasp. There's nothing easy about what Brandon is being asked to do but he's picking it up a lot better these days."

So much better, in fact, that Chaney said it's been fun watching Allen develop in the off season.

"From a coaches standpoint at 52 years old and 30 years into this business it's always fun to watch these kids when they're like Brandon," Chaney said with a smile. "When they didn't have the season they wanted to have and how quick they can come back and rebound from that."

For Allen it's all about eleven players running a play correctly and doing it consistently. "When we don't make mistakes we're a totally different football team," he stressed when spring ball ended back in late April.

Bielema and Chaney expect a lot fewer offensive mistakes in the 2014 season which hopefully will mean Hog fans will see a totally different football team this fall.


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