In his two years as the Arkansas signal caller, Ryan Mallett passed for 62 touchdowns and close to 7,500 yards while compiling a two year record of 18 wins against eight losses and leading the Hogs to their first BCS bowl in school history.
Mallett rewrote the Arkansas record books, but he also had a tendency to come up short in big moments. Mallett made some huge plays during the course of his career but the two fourth quarter interceptions that let Alabama off the hook last year and the interception that ended his career in the Sugar Bowl cast a shadow over his time in the Ozarks.
With Mallett now residing in New England, the biggest question in Fayetteville this fall is; can Tyler Wilson deliver where Ryan Mallett couldn't?
To be more specific; can Tyler Wilson win a championship? Any answer to this question is speculative at best. There simply is not enough of a sample size for anyone to know what to expect with Wilson under center. There are, however, some clues that can be gleaned from Wilson’s three seasons on campus.
Arkansas’s coaches and fans get excited about Wilson because there are a lot of upside to get excited about. For starters, Tyler Wilson is a better athlete than Ryan Mallett. He is never going to remind anyone of Quinn Grovey, but he has the ability to scramble when under duress. With an offensive line that is replacing three starters, Wilson may actually be a better fit for this team than the statuesque Mallett.
Tyler Wilson also has a wider range of release points, which means that he has more than one position from which he can successfully release a pass.
Mallett needed to have his feet set and his mechanics the same every time he threw the ball in order to be successful. Wilson is more adept at releasing the ball lower , throwing against his body, and throwing on the run when needed.
Again, these are skills that could come in handy for a quarterback who may be on the move this season. Wilson also possesses better accuracy and touch than Ryan Mallett. At one point in the Auburn game last season, he completed 15 out of 17 passes and reports from practice indicate that his completion percentage is consistently high.
Many people look back to the Auburn game as an indicator to how Tyler Wilson will do leading the Razorbacks, but if you are looking for a sign of his mental toughness there are two better examples available as evidence.
The first came last season in Fayetteville against Ole Miss a week after the Auburn game. With Joe Adams, Greg Childs, and Ryan Mallet out of the game with injuries and the lead down to 24-17, Wilson came in and went three of five for 71 yards and converted two critical third down conversions in leading the Hogs to a 38 to 24 win. From there, Arkansas went on a six game win streak. The fact that Wilson came back the week after letting it slip away at Auburn to save the day, perhaps even the season, says a lot about his courage and mental toughness.
How many regular season games will Arkansas win in 2011?
Then three weeks ago when Knile Davis went down in the Hog’s first scrimmage of camp with a broken ankle, it was Wilson who got the team re-focused for the rest of the scrimmage. His statistics for that scrimmage were 16 of 20 for 245 yards and 4 touchdowns.
When comparing Tyler Wilson to Ryan Mallet one also has to consider the players around them. With the exception of Knile Davis and D.J. Williams, Arkansas has all of their offensive play-makers back off of last year's Sugar Bowl team and a defense that most feel is the best that Arkansas has fielded since Bobby Petrino arrived on the hill. The amount of talent surrounding Wilson will help to take some of the weight off of his shoulders.
The bottom line is that Tyler Wilson and Ryan Mallett have different skill sets and the success of the 2011 edition of the Razorbacks will rest on whether Tyler Wilson can come up big in the big moments that will define the season. If you are looking for historical precedent, Tennessee once replaced a guy named Peyton Manning with Tee Martin and won a national championship. Only time will tell if Tyler Wilson can lead Arkansas to similar success.