Spring Brings Quarterback Competition

FAYETTEVILLE — With Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino looking over his shoulder, quarterback Ryan Mallett dropped back, turned to his left and rifled a pass to wide receiver Reggie Fish.

Mallett followed it up a few moments later by hurling a tight spiral through a hole in the defense, hitting wide receiver London Crawford across the middle.

Mallett then stepped aside, so redshirt freshmen Tyler Wilson and Jim Youngblood could take turns completing passes, making plays and trying to impress Petrino with their strong arms.

As one might expect, Arkansas' three-man quarterback race wasn't settled Tuesday on the first day of spring practice. So the competition — and the biggest storyline involving the Razorbacks — continues.

"Everybody was kind of shaky. I was shaky," Mallett said. "First-day jitters, you know. But tomorrow we're going to come out here and try to light it up."

For more than two hours Tuesday afternoon, around 100 fans inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium watched as Mallett, Wilson and Youngblood made some impressive throws and let some others get away from them.

Some of Mallett's passes were thrown with too much velocity. Wilson overthrew several wide receivers. And Youngblood got lost in the shuffle.

"Quarterback wise, they all took a lot of reps. They got a lot of work. They didn't do everything right," Petrino said. "You've got to slow down a little bit. Sometimes when you come out the first day and you throw (the) defense out there, they try to do everything so fast.

"So we've got to learn how to slow down and pace ourselves, take a deep breath and relax."

While Tuesday marked the start of spring practice, the debut of new special teams coordinator John L. Smith and the return of 18 starters from last season, the three quarterbacks were easily the main attraction for the Razorbacks.

Mallett and Wilson, in particular, hoped to show that they had gotten past what had been a difficult past few months for the both of them.

Mallett spoke to the media for first time since his embarrassing arrest on March 1 for public intoxication. He took responsibility for his actions, adding that he's trying to do whatever Arkansas' coaches ask of him — including the early morning workouts he got as punishment.

"My teammates know I put myself in a bad situation, and they just know we're going to move forward from there," Mallett said. "They didn't lose any respect for me because they know it was my fault and I took responsibility for it."

Wilson, meanwhile, showed Tuesday that he has recovered from the mononucleosis that caused him to lose weight in the fall and took around two months for him to get over.

While he struggled with his accuracy early on, the redshirt freshman regained his touch and completed some passes against Arkansas' defense during team drills.

"It's the first day of spring, everybody's excited. (We're) still a little bit rusty coming off (spring) break and (the) offseason," Wilson said. "But it's good to get out here, and I think we all had a good attitude today."

Mallett, meanwhile, had difficulty taking some "heat" off his passes. Some of Arkansas' receivers had trouble catching his passes, especially during a drill that called for him to throw to his running backs and tight ends.

"He threw a couple of full hummers there when he needed to take a little bit off," Petrino said.

Arkansas' coaches required all three quarterbacks to wear a knee brace on their left (plant) leg as a precaution against injury. And as expected, not all of their throws found their mark on the first day.

"They were not as technique sound as I thought," Arkansas quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee said. "It was the first day, but they're really working hard at it."

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