The news came as no surprise, but Petrino followed it up with a slight curveball.
While Mallett had done enough to earn the starting job, the plan next season is for redshirt freshman Tyler Wilson to come off the bench and run Arkansas' offense on the first series of the second quarter.
"I've done that before. I've done it throughout the entire season, where your backup quarterback came in and played the first series of every second quarter," Petrino said during an hourlong news conference inside Arkansas' Raymond Miller Room.
"It worked out great for us (at Louisville)."
Petrino said he got the idea to start one quarterback and then bring another one in at the start of the second quarter from Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger, who used the philosophy during his legendary stints at Miami and Louisville in the 1980s.
Wilson said Petrino informed him of the decision during a one-on-one meeting earlier in the week.
And while Petrino acknowledged that he'll continue to evaluate his quarterbacks throughout the summer, Mallett will enter the fall as the starter and Wilson as his backup and part-time help. Redshirt freshman Jim Youngblood will serve as the No. 3 quarterback.
"It's a great honor just for coach to say that," Mallett said of Petrino naming him the starter. "But we still got a whole summer and fall practice to go, and Tyler's pushing (for the job)."
Wilson admitted he wasn't surprised by the announcement. The general consensus heading into the start of spring practice was that Mallett had the size, game experience and arm strength to beat out Wilson and Youngblood for the starting job.
After all, the former five-star recruit from Texarkana, Texas, started three games as a true freshman at Michigan two years ago.
But to the surprise of many observers, Wilson kept the quarterback race close, showing over the past month that he could make plays on the run and find his receivers downfield.
"Really, coming into the spring, that's what I wanted to try to do, was compete, come in every day and compete with myself. And whatever happened happened," said Wilson, a Greenwood High graduate.
"I feel I came up here (to Arkansas) to play, and I'm happy I'm getting that opportunity."
Wilson completed 14 of 16 passes for 169 yards and one touchdown while working with Arkansas' first-team offense in Saturday's Red-White Game. He went 9-of-20 for 132 yards with one touchdown and one interception with the second-team offense.
Mallett, meanwhile, was 15-of-26 for 233 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions in the Razorbacks' final spring scrimmage.
"Like I've always said and I tell Tyler this all the time, when he's standing there and he just has to throw the football, he's as good as there is. I really believe that," Petrino said of Wilson. "... But there's more to playing quarterback than just that."
Petrino said Mallett understands Arkansas' complex offense, and the 6-foot-7, 248-pound sophomore has the ability to get to the line of scrimmage and quickly determine if Petrino has called the right play against a particular coverage.
Arkansas coaches, however, have gotten on Mallett about his footwork — which causes him to be inaccurate with his throws when his technique gets lazy.
"If my feet would work as fast as my head was going, then we'd be going 100 miles an hour," Mallett said.
Wilson, meanwhile, has shown he's effective throwing out of the Shotgun formation like he did at Greenwood High. But he continues to have difficulty running the offense from under center, resulting in several fumbled snaps.
"I'm becoming more comfortable with it every day," Wilson said. "... But definitely, I feel I can operate a game under center now and that's what you got to do in this offense."
Tale of the Tape
Ryan Mallett Tyler Wilson
Sophomore Class Redshirt freshman
6-foot-7 Height 6-foot-2
248 pounds Weight 205 pounds
Texarkana, Texas Hometown Greenwood
Forced to redshirt Bad luck in ‘09 Mononucleosis
How They Fared In Red-White Game:
Name Comp Att Yds TDs Int
Mallett 15 26 233 2 2
Wilson 23 36 301 2 0