Tyler Wilson: Arkansas Razorbacks Nightmare Season Costing QB Millions
A year ago, Tyler Wilson was on top of the college football world.
Arkansas finished the 2011 season ranked No. 5 in the AP Top 25 poll and Wilson was highly regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
At that point Wilson did the unthinkable and passed up playing in the pros to return to Arkansas for his senior season. His loyalty had a good chance to be rewarded; Wilson would be one of the few invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, which would help validate Sports Illustrated's projection of Wilson as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Wilson may never admit it, but he would quickly regret his decision, as his Razorbacks have unraveled during a nightmare season.
Wilson Confronted with Controversy
Wilson left millions on the table to finish what he started, to return for what should have been a shot at a National Title.
That was then, this is now.
Arkansas fans were optimistic as Wilson looked outstanding in spring practices, but expectations for the upcoming season would take a back seat to one of the biggest stories of the college football offseason.
The incidents involving former head coach Bobby Petrino are well documented and were the catalyst for the demise of the football program. The school hired John L. Smith to replace Petrino and attempt to keep the current system in place. Play-calling duties shifted to offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, and the Hogs attempted to start the season with some continuity.
Then several players were dismissed from the team for arrests and other allegations.
The most notable loss was wide receiver Marquel Wade. Wade was arrested and charged with burglarizing dorm rooms and never played a game with the Razorbacks. The loss of Wade would be felt on the field, leaving Wilson without a speedy weapon on the outside.
Amid the turmoil, Wilson stepped to the forefront and defended his team.
Wilson maintained a strong posture as the face of the team, and showed in the first game that he was ready to carry the Razorbacks on his shoulders.
Breaking Records Early
Tyler Wilson was ready to get back to playing football and his talents were on display for NFL scouts in the first game against Jacksonville State.
Wilson found the end zone three times and finished 19-of-27 passing for 367 yards, setting a school record for passing yards in a season opener.
The accurate signal-caller gave notice to the Heisman voters that he should be on the ballot and that the Razorbacks were contenders.
Wilson shined without former Razorbacks Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright. Although Arkansas was playing a lesser opponent, Wilson rose above the controversy and the turmoil surrounding the program.
The jubilation would be short lived as the team was about to implode and head into a downward spiral along with Wilson’s NFL stock.
When the Arkansas Razorbacks hosted Louisiana-Monroe in the second week of the season, the game was considered a tune-up for the following-week's showdown against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Instead it would turn about to be the biggest upset of the college football season. The Warhawks stormed from behind and upended the Razorbacks in overtime in a game that would be later dubbed “The Shock in Little Rock”.
Wilson was mauled in the first half, taking a barrage of hard hits that would force him to sit out the second half. When the game was over, the only quarterback getting headlines was Kolton Browning, the field general for Louisiana-Monroe.
Most teams in college football have signature wins, but for the Razorbacks this game is their signature loss.
It assured that the Razorbacks would have no shot at a national championship, and it sent a shock wave through the Razorbacks fanbase.
The loss can be attributed to more than just one player, but Wilson would be hurt the most.
The Arkansas Razorbacks were very careful in how they listed the injury to Tyler Wilson.
The reports coming from the school were vague enough that they led to conflicting reports from several outlets, some of which insisted that Wilson had a broken collarbone.
When ESPN questioned the school about the injury, Arkansas would only say that the injury was “above the shoulders”.
It was later confirmed that Wilson had suffered a concussion. This was damaging to the health of the quarterback as well as his future in the NFL.
Concussions are a major problem in the NFL, and scouts and executives are leery of drafting a player with a history of them.
The Arkansas coaching staff put Wilson’s health first and held him out of the biggest game of the season against Alabama.
Although Wilson would not play a snap in the game, the fiery and outspoken quarterback would still make headlines.
Calling out Team
The game against Alabama was supposed to be the game that changed the season for the Razorbacks. If the Razorbacks won against Alabama, they would stake their claim as a national championship contender, but the results were dramatically crushed those hopes.
The Hogs were crushed 52-0 by the Crimson Tide. The team was dominated and humiliated in every aspect of the game.
Wilson watched the game from the sidelines recovering from an injury, and he did not like what he was watching.
After the game Wilson sat down to speak at the postgame press conference, which is unusual for a player who did not play.
He may not have played, but he had plenty to say.
In a brief rant Wilson called out his team for giving up.
"I'll start with the football game. Obviously, it wasn't very pretty to watch. It wasn't pretty for me to sit on the sideline and watch as a player. It sucks I can't be out there to do anything about it. Do I feel that we, at times, gave up out there? Yeah, absolutely. As a leader, it sucks to see people not do their jobs and things go wrong. There's been a lot of things gone that way. As a leader, at this point, you've got to look forward. And there's been a lot of people jump off the bandwagon and it's my responsibility as a leader to keep everybody in this organization, in this team, in that locker room together. And I'm going to make sure of it going forward. We've got a big game against Rutgers next week. I'm going to do everything in my power to be a part of it and be the starting quarterback and run out there on the field and get a win. You've got to start with one before you can get the rest of them. But I give you my word I'm going to do the best in my ability and the best in my power to make that happen. That's all I've got."
The speech did not help his draft stock. Many scouts and professional athletes frown upon players using the media to call out other players, and the outburst could bring his leadership abilities into question.
Wilson was now in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, and he needed to get back onto the field to remind people in the NFL why he should be considered a first-round pick.
No Change in Results
Wilson was cleared for the Rutgers game, and he has played in every game since.
Although Wilson is under center the results have not changed. The Razorbacks have won just one of the last three games since his return.
Against Rutgers, Wilson tossed three scores and passed for over 400 yards, but the defense was unable to hold a lead. Wilson tossed two interceptions in the game, but his stats were buried as the focus now was clearly on the Hogs free fall.
In the blowout loss to the Aggies, Wilson and the Razorbacks offense were inept. Wilson had two interceptions and just one touchdown, and the offense failed to score after the first quarter.
A win against the Auburn Tigers broke a four-game losing streak, but the offense was not as impressive as the final score would indicate. The Razorbacks executed better in this game, but they only amassed 372 total yards of offense.
Wilson is attempting to get the Razorbacks on a winning streak, but as he continues to underwhelm, other quarterbacks are rising to the occasion.
Tyler Wilson started the year in a two-man race with USC quarterback Matt Barkley for the Heisman Trophy. Now just seven weeks into the season, Wilson has been completely removed from the ballot.
Geno Smith of West Virginia is the front-runner after an enormous statistical day against Baylor and an impressive win over Texas. Smith has an incredible touchdown/interception ratio of 24-0 and is the favorite to bring home the hardware.
Collin Klein of Kansas State and Braxton Miller of Ohio State have also leaped over Wilson in the chase for college football’s most coveted award.
Wilson cannot seem to catch a break this season, and the dark cloud continues to hang over his head, as his recent car accident illustrates.
Last Monday Wilson was involved in a minor car accident.
According to reports, Wilson was driving in his vehicle, and after stopping for traffic, his vehicle was hit from behind.
Luckily, Wilson sustained no major injuries, and he was on the practice field Tuesday morning, showing no signs of any soreness or injuries. Razorback fans were just happy to hear that the accident did not come with a scandal.
Wilson will be ready to play this week against Kentucky, but this is just another example of the cursed season that has crushed Wilson’s draft status.
After losing to Louisiana-Monroe, the Razorbacks had an unprecedented fall out of the Top 25.
Tyler Wilson has had a similar drop in the 2013 NFL draft.
After being ranked as high as the No. 1 overall pick in the entire draft, the latest look at the big board highlights the drop for the senior signal-caller.
Wilson is in danger of falling out of the first-round completely as the latest projections have him being selected at No. 32. If Wilson is selected that late in the draft, at least two other quarterbacks (Smith and Barkley) would be selected before him.
This would not only bruise Wilson’s ego but lighten his wallet as well.
In the 2012 NFL draft Andrew Luck was drafted No. 1 overall by the Indianapolis Colts and then the Washington Redskins followed that pick by selecting Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 overall pick.
Luck signed a fully guaranteed deal worth $22.1 million over four years with a fifth-year team option. The contract included a hefty $14.5 million signing bonus.
Griffin was close behind after he signed a four-year deal worth $21 million, with an option for a fifth season. The deal also included a signing bonus of $13.8 million.
By comparison, Brandon Weeden was selected No. 22 overall by the Cleveland Browns, and he received a four-year deal worth $8.1 million; only three years of that deal are guaranteed.
What does this mean for Tyler Wilson, who could go as low as No. 32? That means he could lose as much as $14 million by the time the 2013 draft starts.
With that in mind, Wilson needs to turn things around sooner rather than later.
The season is far from over, and although this season has damaged his draft stock, there is still time for some damage control.
Wilson can lead the Razorbacks to a strong finish and a bowl victory to get things headed in the right direction. Wilson will also have a chance to impress at the combines and with team interviews.
Wilson is a very talented quarterback, and some team in the NFL will be lucky to have him.
Before that can happen, though, the Razorbacks will have to wake up and end this nightmare.