Mallett Working To Develop Right Touch

FAYETTEVILLE — The strength in Ryan Mallett's right arm is well known at Arkansas. It has been ever since the sophomore stepped on campus.

Mallett has proven he can zip passes to receivers across the middle of the field. He can stretch a defense with the deep ball. He can plant a pass in a teammate's gut or flip one that jams his fingers.

Quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee said it's an impressive talent, something Arkansas plans to take advantage of this season. But McGee also said Mallett must learn something else to be truly successful.

"The object of passing the football is to get the other guy to catch it," McGee said. "It's not to throw it as hard as you can and hit (receivers) in the chest with it. It's about throwing completions."

The Razorbacks are working diligently with Mallett as he prepares for his first season in the Southeastern Conference. And one point of emphasis is ensuring the ball sticks to his receivers' hands.

"It's not about taking something off the ball because we want him to deliver the ball and throw it like a man," McGee said. "This is the SEC. These are the best athletes in the country. You've got to throw the ball.

"But you've got to make them catchable balls."

The Razorbacks emphasize the message often. In fact, McGee even gave Mallett an assignment recently. He asked Mallett to read part of a book written by former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms.

In the book, Simms describes how hard he threw the ball early in his career. When it bounced off a receiver's hands, coaches didn't blame Simms. He got the ball there. It was the receiver's job to catch it.

But Simms realized the dropped passes were killing his completion percentage. So he changed his way of thinking and eventually excelled.

Mallett said he learned a lot from the book. He used the summer to work extensively on when to zip a pass and when to place one.

"It's a natural instinct," Mallett said. "Working over the summer with that, it made it a lot easier just trying not to throw it so hard. Putting it where it needs to be at the right time and at the right speed."

Receiver Lucas Miller believes Mallett is beginning to understand and is confident he'll continue to improve throughout the preseason.

"He's learning his touch," Miller said. "He's taking some off of the shorter balls. He's still got an arm when he needs it."

But McGee and Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino both said Mallett's technique remains key. When his footwork is flawless, the better he throws the ball. When it's shaky, Mallett is erratic.

It's an ongoing process, but McGee said it could be much worse.

"Ryan, he's got the gift," McGee said. "I would rather teach a guy with what he has than a guy who can't throw it hard."

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