Who Was Tyler Wilson?
Coming off a record-setting season and Cotton Bowl victory in the 2011 season, Tyler Wilson entered his senior season with a great deal of momentum, as one of the top senior-eligible quarterbacks in the 2013 NFL Draft class.
Citing my own preseason scouting report on Tyler Wilson, here is what I had to say on the Hogs’ QB.
“Having a rare combination of football intelligence and an on-field savviness or instinctiveness to his play, Wilson is ready for the NFL game and capable of assuming a starting position as a rookie. Much like Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo, Wilson finds a way to stay alive in the pocket, allow route development, and deliver the ball accurately to his playmakers. To that point, Wilson is a calculated risk-taker that knows when and where to take his shots downfield and when to progress all the way to his checkdown. His immediate and instinctive reactions to blitz pressure, showcase plus instincts and feel for the position, as well as a confident decisiveness that isn't easily taught. The lack of elite physical measurables or arm strength will likely keep Wilson just outside the top 10 in the upcoming 2013 draft.”
Wilson’s command, timing and confidence within the complex, NFL-styled Bobby Petrino offense impressed scouts and draft analysts across the country, leading some to placing the Razorback signal caller in the top ten picks of preseason mock drafts.
Then adversity hit, and hit in a big way.
First off, it must be noted that Wilson lost his top three leading wide receivers to the NFL. Having only two receivers (Chris Gragg and Cobi Hamilton) with which he had developed chemistry, Wilson was on the prospects of dealing with altogether foreign targets.
To put the lack of experience into perspective, receivers Julian Horton, Marquel Wade, Maudrecus Humphrey, and Javontee Herndon had a combined total of 32 career receptions prior to this season.
More damaging to the season however, were the off-field mishaps of Head Coach Bobby Petrino and his subsequent firing. Wilson and the Arkansas Razorback offense lost perhaps the best playcaller in the Southeastern Conference.
How Has He Struggled?
So enter the 2012 season, and with a whirlwind of controversy surrounding the program, it shouldn’t have surprised folks to see Wilson and Company limp through the early portion of the year.
The Tyler Wilson we’re seeing in 2012 is not all that much different than Tyler Wilson of 2011. Wilson, with his new targets, has struggled mightily in progressing all the way through his reads with maintained accuracy. Developing the tendency to force passes downfield without setting his feet to the throw, Wilson continually has made late decisions in the post-snap phase and force-fed the football to Cobi Hamilton.
What made Wilson such an exciting prospect in 2011, his quick, decisive progressions and superb anticipation on NFL throws, has all but dissipated into inconsistent post-snap decision-making.
The biggest difference in 2012 is the lack of star wide receivers, Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, and Joe Adams, who totaled 55 percent of Tyler Wilson’s passing production.
Those three receivers, along with Chris Gragg and Cobi Hamilton, combined for 3,069 of Tyler Wilson’s 3,638 yards passing in 2011—roughly 85 percent. More than ever before, It appears that the 2011 receiving raised Tyler Wilson's level of play, rather than the story being the other way around.
On top of his lack of timing with new receivers, Wilson has also dealt with a severely inconsistent rushing attack and porous offensive line.
The rushing woes can be attributed, at least in part, to the predictive playcalling of Bobby Petrino’s brother, Paul Petrino; however, that does not dismiss the fact that the offensive line has simply struggled to move opponents off the line of scrimmage.
Now, Who Is Tyler Wilson?
Ultimately Wilson’s draft stock hasn’t been altered to the extent many claim. What we've found out through the early going of 2012 is that Wilson has the “Sam Bradford” quarterback label.
In the same way that former Oklahoma Sooner prospect and now St. Louis Rams starting quarterback, Sam Bradford requires talent around him in order to succeed, Tyler Wilson also needs playmaking wide receivers with whom he can develop chemistry, have faith in across the middle of the field, and trust will come down with the 50-50 ball.
Wilson hasn’t been able to rally the troops in Fayetville, as some expected this season, and therefore an unduly amount of blame has been sent his way.
Some criticism regarding his decision-making and newfound penchant to forcing the ball to Cobi Hamilton are certainly justifiable; however, it must be noted that, as mentioned throughout this piece, Wilson relies heavily upon timing, chemistry, and trust with his receiving corps.
Regarding his positives as a prospect, it’s hard not to like the guts and grit of a player like Wilson. Tough and willing to stand in under the pressure, look down the barrel of the gun and follow through decisively with the football, Wilson still exhibits an impressive ability to operate in tight quarters, keep his eyes downfield and adjust his feet to the rush.
Where Can He Improve?
Following the adage that all football coaches repeat to their players, “Control what you can control”, Tyler Wilson needs to follow through with his progressions with improved awareness of free defenders against man coverage, utilize more discipline with his eye level, and be more precise in setting his feet to throw.
In respect to his throwing mechanics, it’s difficult to critique when Wilson is constantly under fire from the opposition’s pass rush. With that in mind, Wilson has begun to build a habit of snapping throws off of a locked front leg, torquing his back half through the throw and falling off of his base altogether.
Falling away from throws, not consistently weight transferring in sync with his arm delivery, has led to inconsistent accuracy beyond 15 yards.
Going back to the “Sam Bradford” label, what ultimately must happen for Tyler Wilson to improve this season involves the teammates around him. From top to bottom, this Arkansas team has underachieved.
Football is the ultimate team sport and the quarterback position is the ultimate scapegoat; don’t buy into the notion that Wilson’s stock has fallen dramatically this season. In reality, he never was a potential top ten pick.
As competitive as any quarterback you will find in this draft class, Tyler Wilson is who he is –a late first, early second round prospect.
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