State of the Hogs: Christmas Wishes

There are no Christmas needs as far as Arkansas quarterbacks. That will be a given as long as Bobby Petrino is the head coach for the Hogs.

I don't have any wants for Christmas. My gift arrived a few weeks ago, a new fly rod. It's already water tested. Fish have been caught.

I didn't need any more fly rods. I will not admit to how many I own. I don't store them all together for fear that my wife will count them. If she wants to look in about three places, she can figure it out, but she knows to leave those spots alone.

We don't discuss numbers. It's like when you are on the river, it's best not to count fish or fly rods.

I don't go to her closet to count shoes. She doesn't count my fly rods. That's our deal. After 31 years of marriage (as of Wednesday), there are certain things that aren't worth discussing. You figure that out after about two decades.

How many fly rods you need is sort of like how many quarterbacks you need. In the old days of 40 scholarships per class, there might be five to eight QBs on the list. You shifted them to other positions after you checked them out. When the yearly quota went to 30, your QB quota dropped to about two per class.

Now, a good rule of thumb is one per class, but that can and should be broken if there is more than one great one available. Look at next year when Kiehl Frazier and Brandon Allen are together. You take them both.

Quarterback numbers have a way of working themselves out. They come and they go. You can lose them at midterm, summer and you can find them at the same time. They transfer in or out, or switch positions. Sometimes they turn pro early.

You sure didn't count on landing Ryan Mallett two years ago in January. You probably didn't count on finding Jacoby Walker, the 6-2, 215-pound quarterback from Spring, Texas. Walker will arrive in a couple of weeks, a mid-term high school graduate.

The Mallett question is unanswered at this writing. I don't have a clue about what he's going to do. It has been the topic at every Christmas party I've attended.

I do understand the dilemma. Come back and jump to the top of the list (Heimsan or NFL draft) with another year under Bobby Petrino and Garrick McGee. Or pay some bills with a jump to the NFL.

Surely there are bills that need to be paid in the Mallett home. I can only imagine how much it's cost to fly to Big Ten games two years ago and across the SEC this past season. None of us know what it's like to owe credit card bills, right?

That's what an old NFL coach told me earlier this year. If you understand the family finances, you can predict whether or not a player is going to come out early or not. I don't where it comes to the Mallett family, but certain it's a factor.

I did know the family situation of one early entry a couple of years ago. He could have gone higher with another year in college, but it's an easy decision when your parents are sitting in a house in December with no electricity or water. We don't imagine that sort of situation, but it's real.

If Mallett returns, it's clear what 2010 will be like for the Razorbacks. He'd be the leader for the Heisman Trophy. He would have a field day in this offense with a fine supporting cast. Joe Adams, Greg Childs, Jarius Wright and Cobi Hamilton are the finest collection of returning wideouts in the SEC.

And there is more. Running backs Ronnie Wingo, Broderick Green, Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis will be so much better next year than they were this past season when they were more than adequate.

I expect the offensive line to be much improved, especially at run blocking. The competition heated up during bowl practices and promises to be sizzling in the spring.

Tight end could be outstanding, too. D. J. Williams is superb. He should have help with Chris Gragg and Ben Cleveland. Gragg looked like a monster mismatch before he dislocated an ankle in August.

Quarterback is the only real unknown with this offense because of Mallett. Or is it really an unknown?

No, it looks great even without Mallett. Yes, this offense would be off to the races with Mallett, but as long as Bobby Petrino is the head coach, quarterback is the one position on this team that should always be outstanding.

Petrino will find quarterbacks. More importantly, quarterbacks will find him.

Check out his pedigree. There aren't any gaps. Usually, QBs are stacked waiting their turn, getting better and refining their skills.

I loved listening to Garrick McGee, the quarterback coach and new offensive coordinator, talk during bowl practices about the development of true freshman Brandon Mitchell. He said it was the most important player in those practices.

It was also sweet music to hear Joe Adams and London Crawford talk about the way Tyler Wilson hit the checks and progressions during bowl workouts. Crawford said Wilson performed just like Mallett.

Wilson and Mitchell give the Hogs great talent at quarterback. They aren't Mallett, but they are going to be outstanding with this system. They will be surrounded by talent and experience and equipped with the best coaching in the country as far as QB development. Mitchell offers a fascinating skill set. He's 6-4, 220 and his wheels to match Mallett's arm. Mitchell's arm is plenty good. Can you imagine Matt Jones with a better arm? Or think of Mallett with better feet?

I can imagine Mitchell playing some even with Wilson as the starter. That's because they have such different abilities and would offer the ultimate changeup for SEC defensive coordinators.

Trust me, Petrino has and will play two quarterbacks, if they bring different challenges for the defense. These two would be something to watch in this offense.

I will not go to sleep tonight hoping for a fine new quarterback under the Christmas tree. They are either here, on the way or waiting on the recruiting trail.

Do not count them. Just treat them like I do my corner stash of fly rods. Enjoy each of them when it's their turn.

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