We all know how tough Tyler Wilson is and what he means to the Arkansas football program. I see it. I understand what happened when he didn't play the last six quarters. One of America's most talented quarterbacks -- and that position is so important -- was not on the field to fix problems.
If there's anything I learned from Bobby Petrino -- and I knew it before he got here -- is that quarterback is far more important than any position on the football field. It's not as important as head coach, but it's up there.
Good teams become average without greatness at quarterback. Average teams become bad without good play at quarterback.
I learned this years ago and it still is true, when quarterback play is equal, the team with the best tackles will win. Change that. Make that dominate. But that first part is more important. Quarterback play must be equal.
And when tackles are not better, quarterback play gives you a chance. It doesn't guarantee anything. But there is at least hope.
That hope part is critical, because a team recognizes problems at quarterback before we do in the stands. They see it on the practice field. They see it in the locker room. They know. They feel it. And it gets dicey quickly when the team knows it.
There's a reason Tyler Wilson is the face of the program. There's a reason he was the All-SEC quarterback last season when there was also A. J. McCarron and Aaron Murray in the mix. He's good.
The best part is that Tyler Wilson is a Razorback. He'll fight and claw. He may not be perfect, but he's darn good and darn tough. We knew that last year at Tuscaloosa when he climbed back off the field and kept competing. We knew that last year at Cowboys Stadium when he kept finding receivers until the Hogs rallied past Texas A&M. And the Aggies were blasting Wilson most of that day, too.
Some are acting like the hits he took against ULM were the first allowed by his teammates. Some of what Arkansas does creates those hits. This offense is about sending out receivers, not maximum protection. Some of that is on Wilson. He has to decide when to keep in a blocker and reduce his exposure. He's not really want to do that. He thinks he's tough enough to take the hit and deliver the pass. He told me last spring that it's the John Wayne in him. He thinks he'll take the hit and that he's just that tough.
There are those that think Wilson should have kept his mouth shut after the game Saturday when he delivered a now famous message. Some think he was calling out teammates. I doubt that's how they took it, but we'll know more later than we do now.
What I do know is that it's all Wilson knows, staying tough and moving forward to get back on the field to lead this team. It's about all there's been in that way over the last few months. Again, it's been built for him to be the face of the team, the leader. That's what happens when everyone knows you are the man, the best player.
Some worry about Tyler Wilson, what is going to happen to him. I don't. He signed up for it. He asked for it. He wanted it. He turned down millions to do what he's doing, be a Razorback.
Some told me today that John L. Smith should do it because that's why he got the $850,000. Perhaps. I'm for that, but I don't worry that too much is on Tyler Wilson. He wanted it. It's what comes with being the quarterback at Arkansas. The one that really understand dollars was Tyler Wilson. He wanted to be a Razorback more than he wanted money.
I'm not sure everyone who has ever played quarterback at Arkansas understands you are almost as important as the governor. I've seen some that I didn't think got it. But Tyler Wilson gets it. He wants that. He's not going to back down. I'm convinced he can handle that part of it.
Tyler Wilson may get blasted again Saturday when he plays against Rutgers -- and I think he will play against Rutgers. Of course, the medical tests will determine that. But I'm guessing he'll be under center against the Scarlet Knights and there will be a spark. Oh, this team aches for a spark. Tyler Wilson is the only one who can deliver it now.
Some worry about Wilson's head. And I get that. It's a fair concern. He might get hit again. But it's what he wants to do and he's going to do what Razorbacks do, give it his best shot.
I think teammates know that. I think Arkansas fans know that. There are questions about the head coach -- who is next more than anything -- but there should be no question about Tyler Wilson. He has the heart of a Razorback and he's going to lead his team and this state.
Someone told me after the ULM game that the general was dead, that the Warhawks cut off the head. No, they didn't. The Warhawks and the Crimson Tide just made him mad.
Arkansas was in bad shape last year after the Alabama game and then two quarters deep in the Texas A&M game. That halftime was the defining moment of the Arkansas season. They are about in the same spot right now. They don't have Bobby Petrino, but they still have the heart of the team.
I don't know if Tyler Wilson can do it. I don't know if he can pull this team together. But I do know that quarterback play is what it aches for more than anything else. It's what this team is built for and what makes it go. And it's what Tyler Wilson wants. That's all there is right now. I get that.
It could get bumpy. There are no guarantees of anything. There are a lot of things to question. The one thing I'm not going to question is Tyler Wilson.
Alabama was good. But as good as Alabama was good, Arkansas was bad. There were too many gifts, too many mistakes. It looked like a team with no confidence as much as anything else. It looked like a team without its leader.
I will say that it looked hopeless. But at least with Tyler Wilson, there is a little bit of hope back. I believe Tyler Wilson can shoulder the load.
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