Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema stands next to injured quarterback Brandon Allen during the second half against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas defeated Southern Miss 24-3. (Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)
It appears Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema will start Iowa City High graduate A.J. Derby at quarterback this week in a road trip to Rutgers.
Most of us around here know their history. Bielema, a former Iowa team captain, was a defensive lineman and played with Derby’s linebacker father, John, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. When Bielema coached Wisconsin, he also recruited Derby to play quarterback, but Derby instead chose Iowa.
After two seasons at Iowa (the second one was split between quarterback and linebacker) and one year at Coffeyville Community College (all quarterback), Derby walked on at Arkansas. He ended up second team with the Razorbacks during fall camp and now has become the starter with Brandon Allen likely out with a shoulder injury.
Here’s what Bielema said about Derby in his weekly news conference:
“I’m excited for A.J. for two reasons. First, I’ve known him for along time and he’s a tremendous competitor. He’s kind of a football junkie. The second thing is, because of his evolution as a player, he started at Iowa, went through some adversity,then went to a junior college and played a lot. It’s not like he just sat on the bench somewhere else as a reserve. He was the starting quarterback and was involved in game decisions. I know as junior college versus the SEC, (this week) is not the SEC but versus a BCS opponent, but it’s still football and that gets you excited.”
“I remember in high school just seeing him play and he came to our camp. The way that he threw the football, his presence, his demeanor–I think as a quarterback, obviously a lot goes into how well you can throw the football and a lot goes into how well you can read defenses and how well you can read coverage and make the right decisions. A.J.’s personality, he’s got a little bit of that confidence or swagger, and kids like him and are engaged with him. He believes he’s a quarterback, which to me is everything.”