Razorback Quarterback Uses Time In Preseason

FAYETTEVILLE -- Two years ago, in late August, Casey Dick directed the scout team as a 19-year-old.

Last season, he entered his sophomore season hoping to challenge for the starting quarterback spot but couldn't because of a back injury. Dick ended up as the starter in both seasons -- in week eight in 2005 and in week 10 in 2006.

But in 2007, the starting job is all his. From the beginning. And he has relished the opportunity to participate in every preseason drill, every preseason practice and every preseason scrimmage as Arkansas' No. 1 quarterback.

"It feels real nice," said Dick, a 6-foot-2 junior from Allen, Texas. "I have a lot more confidence than I had last year."

The Arkansas coaching staff does, as well, even though Dick has never produced consistently in his two seasons in Fayetteville.

Dick has done all the things asked of him throughout the offseason and preseason. He became even more of a leader during offseason workouts. Starting in the spring, he has approached the learning of first-year offensive coordinator David Lee's offense as if his college graduation depended on it -- he takes his playbook everywhere.

And he has humbly taken constructive criticism and tweaked his mechanics. As a result, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt honestly believes Dick should have his best year as a Razorback.

"He's making better decisions, and doing a much better job with the offense," Nutt said.

Lee could be the main reason for Dick's improvement. Early in preseason camp, Lee and Dick could be seen conversing often about the quarterback's footwork. Dick is quick to rave about Lee whenever inquired about him.

The alterations in his game are subtle but meaningful, Dick said.

"It's not a bunch of changes, but there's small things that are going to make a big difference," Dick said.

One change is shortening his stride. Another is bringing his hips through with a lot more power. Dick has mastered the changes.

Now, he must follow through with them in a game and not revert to his old ways.

"I think Casey's made a lot of progress fundamentally," Lee said. "But only Saturday night's going to tell if he's going to lose those fundamentals or keep them."

A breakdown in fundamentals has contributed to Dick's erratic play the past two seasons. It's hard for any Razorbacks fan to forget how Dick's career started. In just his second start as a freshman, Dick led Arkansas to its first Southeastern Conference victory. In the win over Ole Miss, Dick threw for 175 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

But since then, Dick has thrown for more yards only once and hasn't again tossed for three scores.

Dick stressed that this season would be different, stating the offense had to be improved because of the weapons that surround him. Dick thinks like most Razorbacks followers who ask, "How couldn't the offense be better?"

"We just have a lot of options back there," Dick said.

The presence of talents such as Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Peyton Hillis and Marcus Monk should allow Dick to relax, wide receiver Robert Johnson said. Johnson, a former quarterback, said Dick had the tendency of forcing the issue last season. Now, Johnson said, Dick seems more at ease.

"He's just letting the game come to him," Johnson said. "He's grown a lot as a person on and off the field, and we all look up to him."

Despite his struggles in the past, Dick has earned respect as a leader. Dick has "always had that interaction, and teammates have always loved him," Nutt said.

On the field, Dick lets his hustle and commitment do the talking. He thinks of himself more as an "actions" leader than a "words" leader. With Monk out at least one game, Dick spends most nights after practice with the other receivers, becoming more and more comfortable with each passing day.

Off the field, he spends precious time with teammates.

"We bond outside of football," Johnson said. "I fish with him a lot. We play video games. He's gotten so much better at being a leader."



CASEY DICK

Age: 21

Class: Junior

Position: Quarterback

Height: 6-2

Weight: 216

Hometown: Allen, Texas

Notables: Started five games last season, completing 49.2 percent of his passes and throwing for 991 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions. ... Played four games, all starts, as a freshman in 2005, including a 17-for-24, three touchdown performance in a win over Ole Miss. ... Selected to play in the Dallas-Fort Worth All-Star game after throwing 14 touchdowns as a senior at Allen High.



SATURDAY'S TICKET

TROY AT NO. 21 ARKANSAS

WHEN: 6 p.m.

TV: None

WHERE: Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

RADIO: KXIO-FM 106.9; KEZA-FM 107.9; KKEG-FM 92.1; KFPW-AM 1230; KQBK-FM 104.7; KHGG-AM 1580; KHGG-FM 103.1; KDYN-AM 1540; KDYN-FM 96.7; KTTG-FM 96.3

COACHES: Troy, Larry Blakeney (128-64-1 overall, 16th season at Troy); Arkansas, Houston Nutt (67-44, 9th season at Arkansas; 103-66 overall, 14 seasons)

SERIES: Arkansas leads 1-0

ONLY MEETING: Arkansas won 23-0 on Nov. 2, 2002, in Little Rock

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