So it was a bad sign when sophomore Ryan Mallett showed up to Tuesday's practice in a bright yellow jersey to go along with the prominent cast covering his injured right thumb.
Petrino confirmed earlier in the afternoon what has been known for several days: Mallett will miss the remaining two weeks of spring practice because of a thumb injury suffered midway through last Friday's scrimmage.
"He was making some improvement and feeling more comfortable, and (I) actually thought (he) was throwing the ball better," Petrino said during a 20-minute interview with The Morning News on Tuesday. "And then all of a sudden he's done for the spring."
Mallett's injury opens the door for backups Alex Mortensen and Nathan Dick to get more snaps in practice. And for at least the time being, senior Casey Dick won't have to worry about looking over his shoulder, wondering if his place as Arkansas' starting quarterback is secure.
"It's frustrating when anybody gets injured and can't practice," Arkansas quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee said. "It's hard to get better playing football if you don't practice football."
Mallett could be sidelined up to two months after injuring his right thumb when he hit it on another player's helmet while attempting a pass in Arkansas' second spring scrimmage. He's not expected to need surgery on his thumb.
His status for the upcoming season remains more uncertain, though.
Arkansas is waiting to hear from the NCAA about an appeal filed by the university to get Mallett cleared to play immediately instead of having to sit out a year because of his transfer from Michigan.
"I don't know anything," Petrino said when asked about Mallett's appeal.
In the meantime, Arkansas' coaches hope to use the remainder of the spring working with Mortensen and the Dick brothers to correct the noticeable flaws in their passing technique.
During last Friday's scrimmage, Petrino said he noticed that Casey Dick was making better decisions with the football while also showing that he could handle an increased role in the offense. He completed 23-of-39 for 281 and two touchdowns.
But at the same time, Dick had trouble with his footwork when it came to dropping back and then stepping up in the pocket to make a throw. The senior has a tendency to be "flat-footed," causing him to throw off his back foot.
"He's still hurting himself at times with his technique and not taking the proper footwork and reverting back to some old habits that are hard to break," Petrino said. "But he certainly has made some good strides in the first couple of weeks."
Dick admitted Tuesday he has plenty of room for improvement, particularly with his footwork and his approach to the game.
In the past, former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt asked Dick to avoid turnovers, pass for 150 yards and simply manage the game. But a quarterback in Petrino's wide-open offense is expected to scan the field, read defenses and find his multiple targets.
"It's hard to change," Dick said. "But you've got to take coaching and you've got to take it in stride and do what they tell you and just trust them and just want to come out there and get better."
Meanwhile, Mortensen and Nathan Dick are expected to split the snaps that were going to Mallett before he injured his thumb.
Mortensen appears to have moved into the No. 2 spot behind Casey Dick on the depth chart. The junior has gotten a grasp on the offense, and despite his unconventional throwing motion, he has made plays in practice.
Nathan Dick, meanwhile, has been slower to get a handle on the new playbook.
"He had a real good second week (of practice). His first week, I wasn't real happy with," Petrino said of the redshirt freshman. "But I thought he improved his second week. He's just young."
Arkansas entered the spring with several new quarterbacks vying for playing time. Sophomore Ryan Mallett transferred from Michigan, and junior Alex Mortensen joined the mix.
Here is a breakdown of who attempted passes for the Razorbacks last season:
Name Comp. Att. Yds TDs Int.
Casey Dick 150 262 1,695 18 10
Nathan Emert 21 37 288 2 1
Darren McFadden 6 11 123 4 0
Robert Johnson 2 2 19 0 0
Peyton Hillis 0 1 0 0 0
Mallett's Injury Opens Door For Other QBs
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