Gators Get Help From Mallett's Father Figure

FAYETTEVILLE — Jim Mallett considers three coaches largely responsible for turning his only son into a strong-armed quarterback who's now the Southeastern Conference's leading passer.

One of them is Scott Surratt, Ryan Mallett's former quarterbacks coach at Texas High. Another one is Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, who's a perfectionist like Surratt.

And the third coach who's had a large hand in shaping Mallett has likely given Florida's defensive coaches plenty of tips on how to shut down his former pupil on Saturday.

Mallett formed such a close bond with Florida quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler during their one year together at Michigan in 2007 that Mallett saw his former position coach as a father figure. It didn't matter that there's only a 13-year age difference between them.

"Coach Loeffler, he was like another father to me through the whole recruiting process and everything. That's one of the main reasons I chose to go to Michigan," Mallett said.

"So it's going to be kind of awkward standing on a different sideline as him come Saturday. But it's not going to be in my head on Saturday at all."

Mallett turned down dozens of other scholarship offers and signed with Michigan out of high school, in large part because of Loeffler, who recruited the former five-star quarterback.

"It was kind of an easy decision for Ryan," Jim Mallett said in an August interview.

But when Lloyd Carr retired as the Wolverines' coach following the 2007 season, Mallett's father said his son considered following Loeffler to another school. Ryan Mallett transferred to Arkansas only after Loeffler accepted a job as the Detroit Lions' quarterbacks coach.

"He's one of the best coaches there is in fundamentals besides the coaches we got (at Arkansas)," Mallett said of Loeffler, who's in his first year on Urban Meyer's staff at top-ranked Florida. "So with the coaches I've worked with in my two different stints at two universities, (it's) unbelievable how much coaching I've received."

Mallett said it's been hard to keep in touch with Loeffler, especially since they're now at rival schools. And with Arkansas set to face Florida at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the chances of them talking this week are unlikely.

College football coaches try to gather as much information on an upcoming opponent as possible. Not surprisingly, Meyer admitted that he'll likely pick Loeffler's brain to get some pointers on how to defend against Mallett.

"We talked about him already. Scot's got a lot of respect for him," Meyer said of Mallett. "(Loeffler) said he's got one of the best arms that he's been around, some of those (Chad) Hennes and (Tom) Bradys and those guys. So I'm sure Scot will give us some insight into Mallett."

Loeffler should know more than most opposing coaches about Mallett, who has lived up to the hype so far in his first season as Arkansas' starter. The 6-foot-7, 238-pound sophomore leads the SEC in passing (284.4 yards per game), and through five games he has already thrown as many touchdown passes (13) as Casey Dick, last year's starter.

Jim Mallett said Loeffler began looking at his son when he was an unusually big freshman who helped lead Texas High to the state semifinal game. Their bond grew to the point where Ryan Mallett — who's not a fan of cold weather — gladly signed with Michigan.

When Henne got hurt during the 2007 season, Mallett took over as the Wolverines' starter for three games, beating Notre Dame, Penn State and Minnesota. He passed for 892 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions in 11 games as a freshman.

So will Loeffler be able to give the Gators some inside information that will help their top-ranked defense contain Mallett, who has thrown for 1,422 yards in five games this season?

"I don't know," Mallett said. "A lots changed in two years, so we'll see."

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