Casey's Shot

Hawgs Illustrated's Dudley E. Dawson, who saw new Razorback starting quarterback Casey Dick play a couple of times in high school and also has watched tape of him, sizes up how the true freshman - who hasn't played a snap this season yet - might fare Saturday in his first start as South Carolina visits Arkansas.

As someone who has actually seen Casey Dick play against a live rush and also watched lots of tape on him, I am pleased that the powers that be have finally decided the timing is right to thrown that redshirt aside.

University of Arkansas head football coach Houston Nutt decided late last week and announced to the public Sunday that Dick , a true freshman quarterback, will not only lose his redshirt this Saturday against visiting South Carolina, but jump from the scout team to the front of the line and take over as the starting quarterback.

There have been both cheers and jeers at this move and there certainly will be more of them and maybe both once the game actually gets here and Dick - who has a strong arm and is no Matt Jones but still very mobile and elusive when he tucks the ball to run - takes the field.

It was certainly time in my humble opinion to - as one of our regular posters here on Hawgs Illustrated often notes - to lose the fear of playing your youngest quarterback - if you have determined he gives you the best chance to win.

Rest assured there have been whispers coming from the UA camp for quite some time that this was the case. In fact, I would have at least started getting him ready - if that was the case - during the open date after the Alabama loss.

They actually did give him a lot of work, but didn't pull the trigger for whatever reason. Maybe the little extra seasoning he needed is now taken care or the weight of a 2-5 season has made it the right time for the move.

Whatever the reason, again, I think it is time. So does Casey and so does his dad Steve - both who were consulted before this decision was announced and given the opportunity to just go ahead and still redshirt.

Sure there are only four of the 11 games left in the season, but this move in my opinion not only gives the Razorbacks the best chance to win this last quartet of games, but gives Dick the best chance to win the job next year as well.

We all know Springdale quarterback Mitch Mustain - the nation's top-ranked prep signal caller - is coming to Arkansas and many people expect him to just walk right in and be the starter.

That may indeed happen, but it won't be because any of the quarterbacks on campus are in favor of the idea. Dick has a chance to state his case for the job with these last four games - and yes, I know there could be five but let's don't get ahead of ourselves - and then spring practice.

Not only will he have a body of work - against SEC defenses to get experience from - but everybody should realize that the best QB here should be ready to either be a mentor for Mustain or a quality back-up if the Springdale standout does come in and win the job.

I suspect both will play next season - and whomever doesn't start will be just one play away from being in.

Since the Razorbacks workouts have been closed to the media this season, no one can really accurately tell you how Dick has actually looked in practice or if he is ready or not.

But I can tell you about who Casey Dick is and why I think he has a chance to be successful - and that is more than just the the first play I got to see him on when he threw a 55-yard bomb for a touchdown.

First off, he is a kid that is not going to be too shaken by his surroundings on Saturday. He isn't some guy who played low-level high school football before small crowds.

He played at the top level of Texas football with big crowds. His last actual game before this Saturday's - well, it was at the Dallas Cowboys' Texas Stadium in the high school playoffs.

It would also be a mistake to label him as just a passer. He does have a very strong arm - one I can safely say is the strongest over there right now, but he was also very mobile and made plays with his feet as well as his head and arm during his high school career.

He was ranked as the 13th-best dual quarterback in the nation his senior year, further evidence that it is just not about the big arm.

Dick, a very polite and poised young man on and off the field, ran a true spread offense his senior year while playing his high school ball for Allen (Texas) High along with fellow Razorback Marcus Shavers, a true freshman defensive tackle who has seen action this season and is in the rotation at the DT positions.

When Dick was a junior he split time with senior Greg Richardson, who started every game. Dick played in 14 of his team's 15 games that season, coming in each of those games on the third series and splitting time with the older signal caller the rest of the way.

With Allen making a transition from a running offense to a spread offense during the season, Dick completed 48 of 81 passes for 714 yards and 8 touchdowns while also running for 114 yards and four more touchdowns.

The spread was completely put in when he took over as a senior, but that came after he blew up as far as recruiting attention over the summer before his senior year.

Luckily for Arkansas, he came to one of its summer camps and they were able to woo him during that time.

It is a summer when he became known as one of the best QB prospects in Texas and many say the best at the prestigious Elite 11 camp held on the campus of Texas A&M.

Arkansas suddenly found itself in a battle with several teams, who like Mustain was offered a scholarship by the Razorbacks and others before he actually started a game.

Dick was being courted by Arkansas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, TCU, Rice, Kansas and SMU before deciding before the 2004 season started that he wanted to be a Razorback.

That didn't keep the University of Texas from calling during the season trying to get him to change his commitment and be a Longhorn, but Dick kept his commitment to Arkansas.

Shavers told everybody what to watch for before his senior season after Nutt and several of his coaches came down to watch a scrimmage.

"After watching him Thursday, I know that Coach Nutt was comparing him to Brett Farve," Shavers said. "I think that is a great comparison because he is tough, he celebrates like Favre does when we score and he is a great leader. He is more like a linebacker in a quarterback's body. He will take you on head on and win."

Obviously that sounds like former Razorback Clint Stoerner, who Dick would no doubt love to be as successful at in college.

Dick went out his senior season and flourished for Allen by completing 133 of 248 passes for 1,942 yards and 14 touchdowns and also rushing for 401 yards and 8 more scores.

Those numbers would have been even better except for Allen winning several games handily and the fact that Nathan Dick - Casey's younger brother - took over on the third series role that year to get him ready for this high school season - and because he missed the last two games of a 9-3 season with a torn peroneal tendon.

One thing that has not been talked about much is that it has now been a full year since he suffered that injury - playing in Texas Stadium - and it's my guess he is just now feeling totally healthy.

That's the same injury that Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling had during his team's run to the 2004 World Series title (the bloody sock saga) and he never looked fully healed this baseball season.

The first time I saw him was in the season-opening Tom Landry Classic on the campus of SMU where he and his Allen teammates put a 31-13 win over Mesquite, whose quarterback was future Razorback wideout/kick returner Reggie Fish.

Dick went 15-for-26 for 237 yards with two touchdowns - the aforementioned 55-yarder and another 39 yard TD pass.

Later in a 52-7 blitzing of Lewisville, he showed that dual threat capability by passing for 218 yard and running for 81 yards in basically half a game.

How will he do this Saturday? He might throw his first pass for a touchdown, he might throw his first one for a pick, he might cheer as he hands off to Darren McFadden and watches him race for big yardage.

Of that I am uncertain.

But I am certain of one thing and that's Casey Dick has the makeup and the skills to make the most of this shot and will be a very good quarterback down the line - if not Saturday - for Arkansas.

Surely they will take more shots down the field.

And I would love to have Houston Nutt making similar type quotes that Allen head coach Tom Westerburg did when assessing his star last season.

"We threw the ball a whole lot more this year than we did the last because of his arm, knowledge of the game and ability to make the right decisions," Allen head coach Tom Westerburg said of his quarterback. "A lot of people think he just sat back there and threw it all the time, but he also makes great decisions on when to tuck it and run and avoid sacks."

Saturday can't get here quick enough for me.

Casey Dick warms up before a home game earlier this season.

Photo by Lance Davis

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