Wilson Quietly Makes Push For Starting Job

FAYETTEVILLE — Tyler Wilson rolled to his left, avoided a few defenders, and as he scrambled out of the pocket, threw a perfect strike to tight end Chris Gragg near the sidelines.

In doing so, Wilson showed Friday that there's more than just one quarterback on Arkansas' roster who can make nice throws and beat a defense with both his arm and legs.

While sophomore Ryan Mallett has garnered much of the attention over the first two weeks of spring practice, Wilson — in staying true to his low-key demeanor — has quietly made Arkansas' quarterback competition a tight race.

"(The coaches) had said to us it's going to be open and they're going to give everybody a fair chance (to win the starting job)," Wilson said. "And the mindset I have is I'm going to come in and compete with myself and make sure I get better and try to stay consistent every day."

Wilson hasn't gotten caught up in the quarterback controversy. He'd rather wait and see how the situation play out over the next few weeks and months.

In the meantime, the Greenwood native has shown his a grasp of Arkansas' offense, isn't rushing his throws as much as he did in the fall and has recovered from the mononucleosis that sapped his energy and robbed him of his season as a true freshman.

"I really see him working hard and spending a lot of time studying. I can see him growing every day," Arkansas quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee said of Wilson. "He's getting better, he's starting to settle and understand defenses and starting to not just memorize our offense, but understand our offensive concepts and understand how they fit within the defense.

"So I'm really impressed with the way he's working."

Wilson will get a chance to show how far he's come — and whether he can push Mallett even further for the starting job — when Arkansas scrimmages at 10 a.m. today inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The scrimmage is open to the public.

Wilson has looked impressive in the first two spring scrimmages, though much of the work has come against Arkansas' second-team defense. Unofficially, he has completed 22-of-44 passes for 343 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

But McGee said today's scrimmage will have a much different feel. Arkansas coaches will try to simulate a game as much as possible, with no plays scripted while defensive coordinator Willy Robinson is given the freedom to fluster the quarterbacks with different coverages.

"We get to see them play football and perform on their own," McGee said of the quarterbacks.

Wilson's first season at Arkansas didn't go as smoothly as he would have liked last year. He came off the bench to replace then-starter Casey Dick in back-to-back blowout losses to Alabama and Texas, but he couldn't provide much stability at the quarterback position.

Wilson completed 11-of-22 passes for 69 yards and one touchdown, but he also threw a pair of interceptions — including one that was returned 81 yards for Texas' final touchdown in a 52-10 win over Arkansas.

Then he came down with mono, ending his season.

Wilson said the viral illness never got so bad that he couldn't get out of bed in the morning. But he lost around 10 pounds and the mono caused his spleen to enlarge, preventing him from taking part in any contact drills in practice.

"I was drained the first few weeks and gradually began to feel better after that," said Wilson, who was granted a medical hardship by the NCAA, making him a redshirt freshman. "You know, it was tough, but I'm over it and moving forward now."

Wilson said he was able to get back to working out and feeling normal again after he returned from Christmas break. He regained the weight he had lost and added to it, putting him at 6-foot-2, 202 pounds.

He's no longer the 180-pound freshman who was unsure of himself last year.

"I like what I've seen from Tyler. He's definitely learned how to calm down a little bit and relax," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said last week. "He's starting to be more confident each day.

"... He's way, way ahead of last year (as far as) simply executing underneath the center and taking drops and making handoffs."



Tyler Wilson



Position: Quarterback.

Class: Redshirt freshman.

Height: 6-foot-2.

Weight: 202 pounds.

Hometown: Greenwood.

Notable: Wilson led Greenwood High during his senior season to its third consecutive state title and his second as a starter. … He threw for more than 8,000 yards and 93 touchdowns during his high school career, and he was considered one of the nation's top Pro-Style quarterbacks before signing with Arkansas last year. … Before being diagnosed with mononucleosis, Wilson completed 11-of-22 passes for 69 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions as a backup last season.

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