FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Brandon Allen has wasted little time in affirming his hold on the starting quarterback position at Arkansas.
The Razorbacks held their media day on Sunday, during which first-year coach Bret Bielema praised Allen's progress after a week of preseason camp — highlighted by a 16-of-17 passing effort in the team's first scrimmage a day earlier.
Allen is taking over at quarterback for the graduated Tyler Wilson, who had been the starter for the past two seasons and is now with the Oakland Raiders.
The sophomore struggled during his brief action a season ago while Wilson was injured, but he won the starting job during the spring and has continued to impress this month.
"Of all the players on the team, that's the one relationship that I've really enjoyed growing more than anything," Bielema said. "Just watching him develop and getting to know his personality.
"... His composure in the huddle, it's just so much different."
Allen connected on his first nine passes on Saturday, and his only incompletion came on a drop by senior Julian Horton — who otherwise performed well.
The practice's biggest highlight was a 47-yard touchdown pass from Allen to senior Javontee Herndon, a play on which Herndon jumped over the cornerback to take away the ball.
"I think the players have so much faith in (Allen)," Bielema said. "And now you see those receivers, and I make a joke about it, but I mean it. Those receivers are maybe going to jump two inches higher to get that ball. They're going to strain that much more."
Allen had limited action last season, finishing 21-of-49 passing for 186 yards while filling in for Wilson. He rebounded during a quarterback competition in the spring with Brandon Mitchell, performing well while learning a new offense under Bielema and new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
The Fayetteville native was 11-of-16 passing for 158 yards in the spring game, after which he was selected the first-team quarterback — a move that prompted Mitchell to transfer to North Carolina State during the summer.
Allen showed Saturday that he was the clear choice as the starter.
"My main goal was to just work on my leadership; that was something that was big coming in to this year," Allen said. "... The quarterback is known for being the general, the leader, of the team, that was the role I've been trying to step into and do more with."
Bielema also said Sunday that sophomore receiver Mekale McKay, who left the team earlier this week with the intention of transferring, had left school and would transfer to Cincinnati.
The former Wisconsin coach didn't say where McKay was transferring following Saturday's scrimmage, but he spoke to the receiver after that and announced his move to the Bearcats on Sunday.
Arkansas, which was 4-8 last season, was picked to finish last in the Southeastern Conference West Division last month.
It's a position many of the upperclassmen are unaccustomed to, having played in the Sugar Bowl following the 2010 season and in the Cotton Bowl a year after that.
Allen, for one, doesn't mind the position of underdog.
"We want to prove to a lot of people what we can be," Allen said. "That's something that our head coach instills in us, to be 1-0, take one day at a time, to be uncommon.
"We know how good we can be, and we're out to prove to a lot of people how good we are."