Garrick McGee probably knows Ryan Mallett better than anyone. He's spent more hours with the sophomore quarterback over the last 24 months. He'll use all of that experience about 4:15 p.m. Saturday when he makes an assessment of Mallett's mental state.
Does he need to dial back his enthusiasm in the minutes just before Arkansas squares off with East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl? Or does he let the big signal caller do his thing as he adds juice to the Razorbacks during pre-game warmups and in the locker room?
"I expect him to be excited," said McGee, the Arkansas offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. "But he can't be too excited. I may have to calm him down some."
Mallett's excitement level was a problem in a few games this year, most notably the first half against LSU when his passes sailed because of too much adrenalin. McGee got that corrected at halftime and the quarterback was much sharper in the second half.
"Ryan is the one kid I've been around the longest," McGee said. "He's been good for the others to get used to me (as offensive coordinator) in the last few weeks. He knows what's going to fly, what is going to work with me. So he's been good for the others as we've moved into this.
"Ryan does get excited. When he does, his arm can go too fast. We have to slow him down when he needs that.
"But we need his leadership. He's a guy who gets our guys going. He's one of the kids our team follows. He runs into the locker room and gets things going before the game and we need that."
Tight end D. J. Williams agrees.
"He is a firecracker," Williams said of Mallett. "He is like that in the locker room. His face turns red, like he's holding his breath. He's a guy who might get in the face of a defensive player on the other team. You don't see that all the time. He is fearless."
Fearless is a good description for Mallett. Another used often by his coaches and teammates is competitor. That's what everyone has seen the last three weeks in bowl preparation. Mallett and his offensive mates have gotten off in physical, competitive hitting sessions with the defense.
Mallett talks about finding the "right juice" often during his media visits. He said he didn't have it for the Alabama game and promised that would never be a problem again.
It appears the Hogs have had the right juice at practices. There have been times the last two weeks that coaches have raved about the energy level for workouts, particularly a nice series of workouts in Fayetteville.
"We've had a lot of fun," Williams said. "It's been a situation where the offense and defense have challenged each other. I remember before one of those days that I told the defense to be ready for period 13 because that's when we were coming together for team. I wanted them to know they better bring it.
"Really, it's been a lot of fun, these bowl practices. We've been ready for the game for a few days now. It's what we signed on for, this kind of game, this environment. Practices have been hard and good. This team has definitely gotten better for the bowl practices. I think we've gone to a higher level so I can't wait to see what we look like in the bowl game."
Williams said there has been some interesting chemistry develop with the skilled position groups. He said the tight ends settled on a nickname of Dog Pound with Chris Gragg producing some chants. The running backs wanted to join.
"We let them in, kinda," Williams said. "We said they could be a part but they would have to be the puppy pound. We've got some barks and we have some bite.
"It's just been an exciting time. I think the coaches were surprised because of the way we were getting into it at practice and the way the competition has developed. We went to the coaches at the end of some workouts and asked if we could just keep it going. I don't know if they've had too many times where the players didn't want a practice to end."
Hogs Hope to Keep Mallett Calmer
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