State of the Hogs: Ryan Mallett

Ryan Mallett is turning heads early in fall camp. He's had a wonderful last week as the Hogs prepare for their season opener. The quarterback has rare talent and is putting it together under Bobby Petrino and his staff.

After trying to throw cold water on the raging Ryan Mallett hysteria, here's a little jet fuel on the wild fire.

Ryan Mallett looks like the real deal. At least, over the last week six or seven practices he's looked as good as anything I've seen on a practice field.

Compared to past Arkansas quarterbacks, I don't remember seeing anything as good as Mallett has been in the last week.

The last time I saw a quarterback throw so many wonderful passes and complete almost all of them was before Clint Stoerner's senior season.

Stoerner was flat out spectacular that August. But not as good as Mallett. No one has ever thrown the deep pass like Mallett has this past two weeks. Then, he began to grasp the softer throws about Friday or Saturday. He's been lights out on almost every kind of throw you can imagine ever since.

Petrino and his offensive staff -- Garrick McGee, Paul Petrino and Mike Summers -- deserve tremendous credit for their work with Mallett.

There is even better news: Mallett's receivers are catching nearly all of them. It's been something to behold.

There should be one asterisk. Mallett is not being hit in this fall camp.

He wasn't tackled last spring, either. Will he fare as well and look so sharp when the games and the hitting begins.

Bobby Petrino has as much contact in fall practices as any college coach you'll find. But he does not believe in hitting quarterbacks.

It's the one difference in what he went through as a college quarterback for his father at Carroll College in Montana. His father thought quarterbacks should be hit in practice. It's hard to compare Mallett to anything I've ever seen at quarterback.

I've never seen a 6-foot-7 quarterback. I've never seen anyone throw the deep pass as consistently well as Mallett.

There are faint memories of what Troy Aikman looked like in the preseason of his sophomore year at Oklahoma before he broke his leg. Aikman had the best arm I'd ever seen to that point. Aikman eventually left for UCLA when the Sooners turned the helm over to Jamelle Hollieway and locked into the wishbone.

Mallett's arm is better. Plus, Aikman was running an Oklahoma scheme that was far from sophisticated. He could throw the prettiest long spirals you could ever want to see. But he wasn't running a multiple pro scheme like Mallett.

I'd decided this two days ago when Mallett had put together four straight spectacular practices in a row. Then came the acknowledgment from Petrino that, yes, his sophomore quarterback had improved quite a lot. He'd managed to keep his emotions in check and execute the short passing game that was not there in the spring.

I've seen other pro arms excel in practice aside from Aikman. There was Gus Frerotte and T. J. Rubley at Tulsa. I was a student at Arkansas when Joe Ferguson lit up the practice field with his rifle shots. Stoerner's arm was pretty good until he separated his shoulder early in his senior season.

Can the Hogs protect Mallett? Some of that will fall on Mallett. He'll have to solve blitzes in a way that causes defenses to back off.

That's been the strength of Petrino offenses. To twist John L. Smith's line on special teams, Petrino's ability to win one-play battles for huge chunks of land is what makes him an offensive genius. That's what a former college head coach with an offensive reputation called Petrino earlier this week after watching two days of practice.

"Bobby Petrino's forte is developing quarterbacks," the old coach said.

"From what I've seen the last two days, he's exceptional. Mallett is really good, but what you see is a coach wrapping his arms around a talent and molding him into his system. They get more done on the practice field to develop a quarterback than anything I've ever seen.

"The repetitions they get in the passing game are out of this world. I don't see how you couldn't improve as a quarterback with the way they practice. This is going to be fun to watch."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories