FOOTBALL: UA's Quarterback Position Gets Crow

FAYETTEVILLE — When Arkansas opened spring practices last March, Casey Dick was the only scholarship quarterback on the roster.

It was him and then a pair of walk-ons in Nathan Emert and Clark Irwin. There was no doubt as to who would enter the fall as the starter.

But the Razorbacks are no longer thin at quarterback, even though Emert, Irwin and fellow walk-on Brian Reader have each decided to leave the team for various reasons since January.

Arkansas' quarterback position got even more crowded Wednesday when coach Bobby Petrino picked up a pair of local passers in Greenwood's Tyler Wilson and Camden's Jim Youngblood.

And Ryan Mallett's decision in January to transfer to Arkansas from Michigan ensures that Petrino will have plenty of quarterbacks to choose from in the fall, as well as for the next couple of years.

"That will be great competition, there's no question about that," Petrino said Wednesday during Arkansas' National Signing Day news conference.

"(The) plans were to sign two (quarterbacks). Then when Ryan decided to transfer and came in and talked to us about that, you never pass up a great player. That's one of the rules you learn in recruiting, you never pass up a great player."

The additions of Mallett, Wilson and Youngblood give the Razorbacks perhaps six quarterbacks who could compete for playing time in the fall. And there are no guarantees that senior Casey Dick remains the starter.

Arkansas intends to file a waiver with the NCAA in the next few weeks, asking that Mallett — who started as a freshman at Michigan last season — be allowed to play immediately.

Even if the NCAA denies the waiver and forces Mallett to sit out next season because of his transfer, Petrino will still have other quarterbacks to choose from.

There is Nathan Dick, Casey's younger brother. There is Alex Mortensen, whom Petrino tried to sign twice when he was Louisville's coach. And then there is, of course, Wilson and Youngblood.

"We run an NFL-style offense and a lot of it's on the quarterback to make the right decisions, put us in the proper run plays, handle our protections versus pressure," Arkansas quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee said Wednesday.

"So it's important that the kid can really function as a quarterback. A lot of times nowadays you put your best athlete at quarterback in high school. We need a guy that really understands the position, (whose) eyes are open, that's willing to communicate on gameday."

ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill believes Wilson — who passed for 3,939 yards and 42 touchdowns last season while leading Greenwood High to its third consecutive state championship — fits what Petrino is looking for in a quarterback.

"I think he is one of the better quarterbacks in the country that nobody's talking about. I really think he's got a chance to be very, very good," Luginbill said.

"And I think not only did he fit in perfectly with what Gus Malzahn wanted to do (at Tulsa), but I also think he does (things) within Bobby Petrino's scheme."

McGee said he looks for three qualities in a quarterback. Is the individual a quick learner? Is the quarterback actually willing to learn? And will that person work at getting better?

McGee said he got the impression early on that Mallett, Wilson and Youngblood are all fast learners, something a quarterback must be to succeed in Petrino's wide-open offense.

"I feel comfortable with all those guys coming in," McGee said. "I can't wait to get them going, teach them how to be college athletes."

It should make for an interesting next few years. Crowded Backfield Barring any unforeseen departures, Arkansas will enter the fall with six quarterbacks who could compete for playing time. There will certainly be more competition than a year ago when Casey Dick was the clear-cut No. 1 quarterback. Here is a breakdown of the six quarterbacks who will try to make an impression on new Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino in the fall, in alphabetical order: Name Ht.Wt. How They Spent Last Year Casey Dick 6-2/216 Showed improvement as UA's starter. Nathan Dick 6-4/210 Redshirted as a freshman at UA. Ryan Mallett 6-6/247 Started as a freshman at Michigan Alex Mortensen 6-2/225 Worked with UA's practice squad. Tyler Wilson 6-3/186 Led Greenwood High to a 5A state title. Jim Youngblood 6-2/217 Was a dual threat at Camden Fairview.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories