It was about this time last year when Ryan Mallett caught fire in practice. Everything he threw seemed to find the mark.
As the late Hippo Crafton of Conway used to tell me during my college days, "It was something."
Is it happening again? That was my question to Arkansas quarterback coach Garrick McGee. Is Mallett catching fire at the same point he did last preseason?
"You can remember last preseason?" McGee laughed in the media room after practice Tuesday.
I asked him again when we stepped outside onto the field. Is Mallett as hot as that artificial surface has been this August?
"He's been pretty good," McGee said. "Really, your memory is better than mine. I can hardly remember last week."
That's because they work such long hours in the Broyles Center under Bobby Petrino. What McGee does know, Mallett is grinding and doing everything in his power to be ready for this season.
"It's obvious it is important to him," McGee said.
That's good enough for me. And it's good enough for tight end D. J. Williams.
"He's been real good," Williams said. "He's good enough that when there is a bad pass, you say, ‘Wow, that wasn't like him.' I think the best way to say it is when he has a bad day, it's surprising. There have not been many of those and his bad days are better than everyone else's bad days.
"What he does is get everything right at the line of scrimmage. His checks are exactly right. He sees it and gets it right. That is what makes you say, ‘Wow, that was something. He got it perfect.' That's what is so impressive about the way he's playing."
The wow factor comes when Mallett squeezes it between two safeties in a tight space. But he's always had that. He's got the other things now.
"I think what he does better this year than last is not that hard one into a tight spot, but the little touch passes," Williams said. "I've seen him handle those passes a lot better this fall.
"Now, he can still zip it in there. I know when there is one of those routes where you have a couple of guys around you, when you turn you better be ready for a hard one. It's going to be right there on those tight ones across the middle. It's going to be hard. Those tight ones underneath are going to be hard ones, too. He's going to do that with the same power."
Williams has the power still, too. But he looks a little different. Listed at 6-2, 251 in the media guide, Williams confirmed he's only about 238 to 240 these days. He's about 15 pounds lighter than last fall.
"I'm just as strong, though," he said. "I tested stronger, actually. But at this weight, I'm quicker and faster. I've got better lateral quickness, better vertical, or something like that.
"It's good to be faster and quicker -- and I look a little better in the mirror in the morning."
Williams added weight last year after dazzling as a receiver two years ago. He used that weight to become a better blocker. He thinks the added strength and leaner body will give him the best of both worlds this season.
"I think I have an understanding how to do more things now," he said. "I can put it all together."
So can Mallett. It may really be something.
State of the Hogs: Mallett
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