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And, ladies and gentlemen, you knew it was coming. He plays the most important position for a team that is replacing a 6'7", 7,000 yard, 60 touchdown passer. Who else but the Greenwood product with the aw-shucks personality would top this list?
Yes, if there is one individual who will be the most important contributor to the success (or lack thereof) of the 2011 Arkansas Razorbacks, his name is the much-hyped Tyler Wilson.
In multiple other articles about the Razorbacks, I have gone in-depth about the all-important role that Wilson will play for Bobby Petrino's squad.
But, just to change things up for the sake of fresh debate, let's touch on some points that haven't been repeated on blogs time and time again.
First, what type of numbers will Wilson have to put up for this offense to flourish? Can the Razorbacks get by with Wilson "managing the game" by throwing only 15-20 times a game, if running backs Knile Davis, Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo Jr. can gain roughly 200 yards a game combined? Or, will Wilson be allowed to throw downfield to his plethora of playmakers at receiver and put up 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns like his predecessor?
Or, more importantly, can he?
The answer to the latter is one that I think most Razorback fans will enjoy hearing, and that is yes. In the two games in which Wilson saw significant action in 2010 (for three quarters against Auburn and most of the second half against Ole Miss), Wilson played extremely well. If it weren't for two misguided throws in the fourth quarter on the Plains, Wilson couldn't ask for a finer body of work heading into the 2011 season. As long as Wilson can play close to expectations in 2011, Razorback fans should expect a strong level of continuity from the Ryan Mallett era to the Tyler Wilson era.
The second point is in regards to something more immediate and less talked about. Some devoted Arkansas fans have rightfully pointed out to me in comment sections that Bobby Petrino has yet to commit to Tyler Wilson as his starter for the 2011 season. Although this development has been nuanced and not gained much media attention, it does raise some eyebrows, given the fact that Petrino was ready to commit to Mallett when he transferred to Arkansas from Michigan after the 2007 season. It also raises many questions. Has Wilson been less impressive than most of the Razorback faithful believe? Or, are backups Brandon Mitchell (who some have compared to a less-polished Cam Newton) and incoming freshman Brandon Allen (the hometown boy who led Fayetteville High School to the Arkansas State Championship game in 2010) one solid training camp away from wrestling the starting job from Wilson?
According to a coach on the staff, those questions seem to have little validity. Most believe that Petrino has yet to name Wilson the starter just to keep the pressure on him to perform in camp and not get complacent. However, it still does leave open the possibility that Wilson still needs to improve himself in the coaches eyes before he earns the right to lead the Razorbacks on the field in the opener on September 3rd against Missouri State.
But, even with rumors swirling, there is little doubt that Tyler Wilson's performance in 2011 will more than likely hold the key to Arkansas returning to the ranks of the BCS elite, and beyond. Even with potential All-Americans scattered at every skill position, it will be the right arm of Wilson that will be watched and analyzed like few others have been in the Bobby Petrino era.
But, if the Razorbacks want to earn their way back to New Orleans in January (and produce a different result), they'll need their most important player leading the way.