Ryan Mallett, Quality Backups Ensure Arkansas Well Armed at Quarterback in 2009

Roger Gowens@RazorsEdge56Correspondent IAugust 27, 2009

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 27:  Quarterback Tyler Wilson #8 of the Arkansas Razorbacks moves to pass the ball during the game against the Texas Longhorns on September 27, 2008 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  Texas won 52-10.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Last season, the first year of the Bobby Petrino era saw quarterback Casey Dick set many passing records at the University of Arkansas. Granted, UA has not exactly been known for throwing the football since Joe Ferguson took his act to Buffalo in the early '70s.

In fact, the last few years of the Houston Nutt era brought an annual passing ranking in the 100s out of 119 NCAA schools in the top division.

While some fans grumbled as the running game fell to 10th place in the SEC, the passing game improved to second with 259.6 yards per game, trailing only Georgia and Matthew Stafford.

What many fans failed to realize is that with Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Peyton Hillis all playing on Sundays and 5'7", 176-lb. Michael Smith having to carry the entire load on the ground, the running game was certain to suffer.

What does that have to do with the Arkansas quarterbacks? Lots. You see, the Hog signal callers won't have to carry the offense as much with what figures to be a vastly improved running game in 2009.

There shouldn't be nearly as many second-and-long or third-and-long yardage situations this season with the stable of backs that Petrino has assembled. Opposing defenses won't be able to come after the QB quite as hard while guessing whether the play is pass or run.

When the Hogs do throw, and they will often in Petrino's offense, huge rocket-armed Ryan Mallett will have his choice of several quality targets. D.J. Williams is the best pass-catching tight end to ever play at Arkansas, and a couple of wideouts have All-SEC potential—maybe not this year, but before they move on.

Prediction: This Mallett will smash all of Arkansas' single-season passing records, barring injury. The young Michigan transfer sometimes has accuracy problems due to sloppy footwork, but who better to iron out those wrinkles than Bobby Petrino?

Mallett is bigger, stronger, and has a better arm than any Razorback quarterback in many years, maybe ever.

If somehow Ryan Mallett is injured or ineffective, all is not lost. Redshirt freshman Tyler Wilson was second on the depth chart, ahead of departed Nathan Dick, in 2008 before a bout with mono derailed Wilson's season.

All Nathan Dick did in the only game he played from start to finish was pass for 333 yards and three touchdowns, against an SEC team to boot. 

Wilson sometimes has trouble breaking the huddle in time and taking snaps from center after playing exclusively in a no-huddle spread offense in his high school career.

Once those problems are worked out, in the words of Bobby Petrino, "the kid can throw the heck out of the ball." 'Nuff said?

While Wilson doesn't put quite as many RPMs on the football as Ryan Mallett, many QBs, like Joe Montana, somehow made do without a big arm.

Not to compare Wilson to a four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, but this young man is more than capable of leading the Hogs offense if necessary.

True freshman Brandon Mitchell is athletic enough to have had a scholarship offer from LSU for basketball and has the arm strength and size to be a future standout. The coaches must be pleased with Mitchell to have moved third team QB Jim Youngblood to tight end recently.

To sum it up, Ryan Mallett is the most talented QB at Arkansas in some time, if not ever. Tyler Wilson is a better backup than most schools possess and could eventually be a standout, and Brandon Mitchell has a lot of talent.

All together, it adds up to the Arkansas quarterback situation being in good hands now and in the immediate future.


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