As The Starter, Dick Avoids Flying Obstacles

FAYETTEVILLE -- Casey Dick dodged a red rubber ball thrown at his legs, then immediately avoided a red foam pad tossed at his head.

After side-stepping the debris Monday afternoon, Dick threw a tight spiral into a net placed several yards away from him on the practice field. The individual who was throwing the objects at Arkansas' starting quarterback: New offensive coordinator David Lee. "He's got us doing a bunch of different, crazy drills," Dick said. "But it's all situations that you could be faced with in a game -- throwing over guys, making it go into the net and not being able to set your feet at certain times." Considering everything that has been thrown at him over the past two seasons, Dick shouldn't have a problem dealing with a few flying kickballs. Unlike this time a year ago, Dick entered spring practice earlier this month healthy and unquestionably Arkansas' starting quarterback. There is no longer a quarterback controversy that is being debated throughout the state. And now that former Springdale High star Mitch Mustain has decided to transfer to another school, Dick doesn't have to worry about looking over his shoulder or playing in the shadow of a hometown legend. But Dick insists his approach to spring practice hasn't changed, even though he's guaranteed the starting job in the fall -- barring an injury or some unpredictable occurrence. "You can't really approach it any different from the way we did last year," Dick said following Monday's practice. "You've got to come out here with the mindset that you want to get better and you want to progress each day." Progress is exactly what Arkansas' coaches hope to see from Dick following a lackluster sophomore season. After replacing Mustain as the starter following the ninth game of the season, Dick struggled with his accuracy and he failed to jump-start a passing game that ranked 11th in the Southeastern Conference. In the regular-season finale, Dick had what he described as "probably the worst game" he's ever played in," completing just 3 of 17 passes for 29 yards with one touchdown and interception in a 31-26 loss to LSU. And things didn't go much smoother in a 17-14 loss to Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. The one area that Arkansas coach Houston Nutt wants Dicks to improve on the most in the spring is his decision-making under pressure. So far, though, the junior hasn't had any problems handling his role as the Razorbacks' clear-cut No. 1 quarterback. "He always comes out here and competes. He always competes very hard," Nutt said of Dick. "He's very unselfish, so I don't see that much difference. "One thing, I think, he's a year older. I think going into his junior year there is a lot of learning that's taking place because he's been in some game situations. So I see him in a good situation, and hopefully he'll just keep continuing to get better." Lee has worked extensively with Dick since spring practices began on improving his throwing mechanics. Before every practice, Dick takes turns throwing footballs over ladders that have shoulder pads and a green practice jersey on their top step. And then there are the written tests. Lee has been given Dick and backup quarterback Nathan Emert, the former Shiloh Christian star, actual tests to make sure that they know different types of reads, defenses and even their own offense. "You have to study for it or you're going to fail it," Dick said with a smile. "It's a written test. It can take 10, 15 minutes, so it's a good test." Dick said he's passed the tests so far, and he hasn't had any trouble dealing with anything else thrown his way this spring -- including a few rubber balls. "I just think his confident improved first of all because Coach Lee has helped him so much in his footwork, his mechanics and things like that," Emert said. "He's just confident. I think he had confidence last year; I don't that was an issue last year. "But he just seems so much more like it's his this year."

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