Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema announced on Monday that quarterback Cole Kelley has been suspended from the program for his early Sunday morning arrest for suspicion of driving while intoxicated and reckless driving.
Kelley has a court date set for Wednesday. Bielema has talked to Kelley and his parents now. He definitely won’t play this week against Mississippi State.
“Here’s where I’m at,” Kelley said. “One of the things I put out there yesterday, I hadn’t even been able to talk to Cole or his parents yet, so I just obviously put out news that we were made aware of it. He’s got a court date on Wednesday. He’s indefinitely suspended from our program. This week he will not involved with us and will not play on Saturday.”
Kelley came off the bench in the LSU game after starting the previous four contests. Austin Allen returned this past week and got the start against LSU. The Razorbacks will finish out the season the following Friday against Missouri.
“He’s got a court date on Wednesday,” Bielema said. “Depending on the information out of there, he’s been pretty honest and up-front with me all the way through. Obviously there’s court proceedings going on so I won’t comment about the specifics, other than he’s very disappointed. We were disappointed. It’s a learning lesson that I hope he takes full advantage of, as well as our team.
“You know when it happened on Sunday morning, my first reflection is ‘Is he safe? Is there anybody else involved and is everybody safe in the entire incident?’ That was a positive but obviously something could come very, very negative out of those situations. So an awareness factor there for our guys.”
Bielema noted that Kelley, who is a redshirt freshman, has certain things expected of him as a quarterback for the Razorbacks.
“The part I think he has to understand is not only to be an Arkansas Razorback but to be a quarterback and start games here is a very, very big deal,” Bielema said. “Social media and everything else around it. He’s going to be held to a higher standard. The blessing that you give can also be your biggest burden. He’s going to have to do a lot of growing up in a short amount of time.
“I’ve had conversations with his parents and we’re all on board moving forward. For however long the suspension, through this week for sure, through Saturday, I think he’s got to understand what life can be like without football. And also address all the other issues. If he does all that we’ll kind of address it at that point moving forward.”
Kelley was able to attend the meetings on Sunday though that will be the extent of him being involved in football this week.
“It was all just coming so fast,” Kelley said. “We started our meetings and I wanted to keep him - I kind of wanted him to face everybody to be quite honest. It would have been easy to throw him out of the building yesterday, but I wanted him to have to be around, have to answer questions. From this point, we made this decision after talking … I didn’t get a chance to talk to his mom until early this morning. So he won’t be involved in anything here in the building this week.”
Kelley still has his right foot in a boot. Can he still come and get treatment while he’s suspended?
“Oh absolutely,” Bielema said. “When we remove anybody, you know we commonly do that, sometimes you guys know about it, sometimes you don’t know about it. Sometimes kids are redshirted so it doesn’t become a story. But we never take away three things: We never take away academics or academic support, we never take away medical support or anything that goes into that, and also the services that we provide for them here in the building.”
With Kelley out that elevates sophomore Ty Storey to the backup spot behind Allen. Bielema talked about Storey and his expectations for him.
“He got a lot of reps last week,” Bielema said. “Cole, like I said, got limited reps on Wednesday so Ty got all the reps on Tuesday, half the reps on Wednesday and then took all the reps with the twos on Thursday. Had a package for him that if Cole wasn’t able to go, he was going to take over that look. Ty has a lot of talent. He’s an engaged football player. Probably no better with a football IQ or understanding of our offense.
“Dan (Enos) and I both discussed that if there is a way to get him involved in the game, we’d like to do that. Just to keep his spirit going. But in big picture thinking, like I told Ty and Cole at the beginning of the year and then when we made the decision to go with Cole … obviously when Austin got hurt … no matter what happened during the course of the season with Cole and Ty when we got to the spring it was going to be an open battle. I told those guys back them they both have tremendous upside and got a great deal to do. Cole got some valuable experience, there’s no doubt. But going into spring drills, those guys will be in an open competition.”
When the Cole news happened, did you just think what else can go wrong?
“I get it,” Bielema said. “But on the same account, as a head coach, you can’t really flinch more than just reading it. You get that message and you say, ‘OK, what do we gotta do.’ Literally have to hop on and notify the people. Have a plan of attack, what you’re going to do, how you’re going to handle it. You instantly flip that switch to go into what you’ve gotta do. We were planning out our Sunday, too, because we meet with our players on Sunday.
“I kept him in the building on Sunday because I wanted him to be around our guys. I wanted him to see them and face them. I didn’t actually get a chance to see him and face him until after our team meeting on Sunday to discuss what we were going to do moving forward. It’s one of those deals you’ve got to deal with it, you’ve got to deal with it quickly, understand what the situation is and then capitalize on the learning moment.”
Bielema also talked about how the meeting with Kelley went when the two met on Sunday.
“He was very quiet,” Bielema said. “One of the few times I’ve seen Cole quiet. He’s going to handle it the right way, I think. He agreed to all the terms that I laid out in front of him. When you’re in these positions, I think the biggest thing is you have to take it and run and learn. Sometimes when you’re 19 and 20 you don’t feel like you’ve got to hear these lessons and I want to make sure that they absorb it and learn.
“Again, great discussions with his family. Cole has a very bright future. This shouldn’t be the definition of his career. This should be one of those moments that shows who he is. I encouraged him to take the next opportunity and the rest of the opportunities that lay in front of him over the next three years to define what his reaction is to this moment. These things pop up. Like I said, fortunately they haven’t popped up in our program, but it is what it is. We have to address it and move forward.”
Enos wasn’t as forthcoming about his discussion with Kelley. When asked about his decision with Kelley he had a very direct answer.
“That’s a private conversation,” Enos said.
Against LSU, Allen played for the first time since leaving the South Carolina game at the end of the third quarter with a shoulder injury. He completed 13 of 23 passes for 140 yards. Kelley, who played the final two series against the Tigers on Saturday, completed 3 of 10 passes for 36 yards and an interception. How did Allen hold up physically?
“Austin, really no issues,” Bielema said. “I ran into him on Sunday and said ‘How do you feel?’ And he said ‘Really the only soreness I have is in my legs, just being out there and running around and playing a game as long as he did.’ That was really the only thing that was sore. Nothing significant in the shoulder and I think he’ll be back better this week more than ever.”
Was some of Allen’s struggles on Saturday due to rustiness?
“I think there’s a little bit of everything,” Bielema said. “You also work with the receivers … There’s two that jump out in my mind. So the throw to T.J. (Hammonds) was just a little bit behind and if you hit it clean you may have a bigger play. Then there was a play where Deon (Stewart) was dragging across the middle. It was a first down catch, but if he hits him in stride it can be there.
“The fortunate thing is, I’ve seen Austin throw those balls a lot. I’ve seen him have great success. So you feel it’s there. But that was the first time he played in a long time, and obviously not the best place to cue into, especially when we start him backed up. I think you’ll see a big spike in him this week.”
Enos talked about the quarterback situation going forward.
“Austin has a game under his belt so that will be good,” Enos said. “He’s got to play better than he did this past week. He and Ty will get the reps and we’ll move forward.”
Bielema said that Austin felt good physically. How do you think he played with such a long layoff and the shoulder?
“He didn’t play well enough for us to win,” Enos said. “There’s some things he missed so to me as a quarterback you are judged pretty simple. We either win or we don’t. He’s got to play better and we’ve got to play better around him.
“I think obviously just the fact he was out there and got hit. He got some confidence. He got to see if his shoulder is gonna hold up and anytime obviously you play a game speed and LSU on the road you play good people who are well-coached. Hopefully we’ll see a step forward this week and he will play faster and a little more confident. Hopefully he’ll be able to make some of those plays we didn’t make on Saturday.”
Who would be your third-string quarterback now?
“I would probably go with Jack Lindsey,” Enos said.
Lindsey is a redshirt freshman walk-on from Springdale.
Arkansas (4-6, 1-5) hosts Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3) on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. The game will be televised on CBS.