State of the Hogs: Tyler Wilson

Tyler Wilson didn't have a perfect season, but he had a good one in his first year as the Arkansas starter. The bottom line is the bottom line: 6-2 in the SEC.

How did Tyler Wilson do this season, his first as the starter as the Arkansas quarterback?

The best way to answer is to look at wins and losses. Was Wilson perfect? Hardly so. He didn't please the head coach if sideline visits were any indication. But he did win games. Ten of them to be exact. He led his team to a 6-2 SEC record.

The bottom line is the bottom line where quarterbacks are concerned. He played behind a rebuilt offensive line with first-time starters at offensive tackle. He was without his top running backs for about half the season. And he never had the best, injured All-SEC star Knile Davis.

Let's look at how Wilson will be next year as we anaylze how he did this year. The best thing you can have is a senior quarterback with experience. It trumps everything.

The key will be for head coach Bobby Petrino to get comfortable with Tyler's checks. I don't think he was this year.

However, those that say Tyler didn't do well with the checks must be talking about really early in the season, because after a few games, that was mostly taken from him.

The checks came from the sideline. Remember, that's what was happening when Tyler looked to the sideline after the initial set of the formation. I think most of the checks were from Bobby. The signal comes from Garrick, but he's on head sets with Bobby.

What you want is for the quarterback to go to the line and be able to run a play as soon as he puts his hands under center if he sees a defense that he likes. Sometimes the defense was changing twice because of the length of the process.

I think Ryan Mallett had the freedom to do that, especially after the early part of his first year. Certainly, Mallett was running most of the checks his second year as a starter.

That will come when Wilson proves to his coach that he can handle all of those reads and all of those checks.

Tyler will be better next year. I love a team that has a fifth-year senior at quarterback with the same head coach in all of those seasons. I think the value of experience at quarterback is huge. The Hogs will have that.

And the Hogs will have tremendous character and heart at that position. In the time I've been covering college football, I can't think of a quarterback that has any more of those two intangibles as Wilson.

Throw in toughness and ability to throw and run at least some, Wilson has got a lot of tools. And he's got great coaching.

The second part of the equation is the offensive line. As it improves and as the Hogs add a big physical blocking tight end to complement Chris Gragg and they are able to use both of them, you'll see more of the things that were effective in the perimeter run game in 2010. That didn't ever mesh with these tackles and these tight ends this year -- or with these running backs. You'd like to see that return in the form of a healthy Knile Davis (and some new speed backs apparently on the way) and improved tight ends and tackles.

I think one thing in this summary that might have not been said is that you may never have the perfect team. I mean, you might not ever be supremely talented and experienced at all positions. It might always be a work in progress. There is ebb and flow to the building process, so to speak.

You can get close sometimes. I think the Hogs will be closer next year, but there will be flaws. The good thing is that this coach seems to be very good at adjusting to the flaws and figuring out what the team can do best. That's how you win 10 in back-to-back seasons.

The other unmentioned area is what will others around the league be like, particularly in the SEC West. The ebb and flow that happens at other schools is key.

I want to see what Alabama and LSU lose to the NFL before I commit too much to that evaluation. I have a feeling that a lot of juniors and some redshirt sophomores (Sam Montgomery) are going to get the itch to try the NFL.

I would if I were in their position. We don't have a clue as to what the two Mississippi schools will look like next year as far as head coaches. I figure Mississippi State's Dan Mullen will bail after beating his head against Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and Auburn and coming up flat out empty the last three seasons.

One of the other key areas would be health. It would seem that Wilson was in good health throughout the season since he didn't miss any snaps outside of getting a little fuzzy in the first Little Rock game and setting out the second half. But it's my belief that he had sore ribs (or maybe something a little worse than sore) and beat up shoulders, knees and elbows for much of the season.

I saw the way he got off the ground sometimes. It was a struggle. It was the kind of tender movements that told me he had aches that most of us would not be able to handle. I think he'll take fewer of the kind of hits that cause those types of bumps, bruises and assorted injuries.

And he'll be able to play better because of that.

How did Wilson do compared to Mallett? The most important area is SEC record. Mallett was 4-4 as a first-time starter in SEC games. Mallett was 6-2 last year, the same as Wilson this season. Mallett completed 55.8 percent in his first year.

Wilson was 63.1. Mallett did improve to a little over 64 percent in his second year. One thing that did surprise me is that the Hogs gave up only 25 sacks this year, down three from last year. I don't think this line protected as well as last year's line so the difference was Wilson's mobility.

Here's one other interesting tool to judge quarterbacks, efficiency ratings. Mallett went from 152 to 164 in his two years. Wilson was at 148 this season. All of those are superior numbers.

Everyone saw things that Wilson needs to improve. He can work the field quicker with his vision. He can improve his deep throws. He can get better in the overall operation of the offense. He can avoid the bad plays, when he tries to force a play or extend it past the safety point.

And he'll do that. I'm just glad he's not at Alabama or LSU or we might not be just raving about their defenses. He might be the missing ingredient in several programs around the SEC, starting at the top.

Would you trade Wilson for any other quarterback in the SEC? I wouldn't.

There's not a better one to represent the Razorbacks and the state of Arkansas. I know what Tyler Wilson is doing right now. He's working to get better in the class room and as a quarterback and plotting how to do better than 6-2 in the SEC next season.

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