State of the Hogs: Riding Tall

The focus may be on the change at the top of the Arkansas program, but Tyler Wilson has stepped up as face of the football team with a great spring.

Some of you have watched barrel racing at a rodeo. The horses are beautiful, fast and highly skilled. They are highly trained. They are so well schooled that if the cowgirl loses her seat, the horse often continues the pattern.

I'm not saying I enjoy it when the rider falls, but I do find it highly interesting to see the horse complete the race. It speaks to the hours of training and preparation.

Maybe that's what we are going to see Saturday at the Red-White football game, the conclusion to Arkansas spring football drills. For sure, this is a beautiful team, fast and highly skilled.

Bobby Petrino is no longer in the saddle, but the animal is still prepared to race. Certainly, it should be an entertaining look.

It's a little different than the barrel horse, this Arkansas football team. The trainers are still there, even if the rider is gone.

It's a wonderful staff. On offense, there is Paul Petrino (coordinator/quarterbacks), Chris Klenakis (line), Tim Horton (backs) and Kris Cinkovich (wide receivers). Defensively, Paul Haynes (coordinator/safeties), Taver Johnson (linebackers), Steve Caldwell (ends), Bobby Allen (cornerbacks) and Kevin Peoples (tackles).

They have the plan down. It really didn't faze them when Petrino left because the organization was massive and the preparation perfect. As Paul Petrino suggested, it's not a lot different than previous springs at Arkansas. If there was any doubt, a practice script could be pulled from last year or the year before. The order of installation was already set before spring drills began.

Oh, there are some changes on defense. Haynes and Johnson have installed new terminology. And there are different tackling drills. But it's not that different. It's just the emphasize on the way they expect the motor to run than anything else. Effort is pushed as much as technique. And it's working.

The point is that fans are going to see a lot of things they like, a machine that is clicking. They will see players working together under a tight organizational plan that's the strength of this team.

And, they are going to see the best quarterback in college football, as judged by Paul Petrino and the players. Tyler Wilson is finishing a spring that might be the best ever put together by an Arkansas quarterback.

Teammates say he sets the example for work rate every day. He's completing passes in the 70 percent range, with touchdowns everywhere. He's the leader everyone wants at that position. And he seems to be meshing perfectly with Paul Petrino.

There has been little doubt in the past that this was Bobby Petrino's team. He was the face of the program. He was the man in the saddle.

It's just as clear that Tyler Wilson is that man right now. It's actually a great situation. Think Brett Farve during the glory years at Green Bay. Insert Peyton Manning during his beautiful run at Indianapolis.

I wrote in January of 2011 that Wilson was the perfect man to be the next quarterback at Arkansas. I highlighted his character, poise and overall ability as a quarterback. I rated it top shelf. I may have understated it. He's already the school's first ever All-SEC quarterback and might become the first All-America at that position since Billy Moore.

Most reading this never heard of Moore, who finished a three-year run in 1962. Tyler Wilson is a better passer and Moore the better runner. As far as toughness and on-the-field leadership, Moore and Wilson are similar. But no Arkansas quarterback could have better off-the-field marks than Wilson.

Wilson has gotten great coaching under the Petrino system. Bobby Petrino and Garrick McGee did awesome work and Paul Petrino is putting on the last polish.

But it's more than just knowledge of how to run the system. There isn't anyone with more mental toughness than Wilson. Some of the credit goes to a wonderful family support system in Greenwood, starting with Don Wilson, his bigger than life father. And some goes to Bobby Petrino. Tyler nods his head up and down when asked about that aspect.

"If I'm not ready for this now, I'd never be," he said when asked about the distractions and turmoil that hit last week. "I've heard everything (from Petrino) there is to hear. I think I can handle about anything."

That's what fans will see Saturday, a great Arkansas quarterback who can handle it. Come to Fayetteville on Saturday and take in the Tyler Wilson show. He's sitting tall in the saddle and is riding a great horse -- and it's not his first rodeo.

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