Arkansas QB has luxury of skillful players

Associated Press
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference Football Media Days in Birmingham, Ala., Wednesday, July 20, 2011.   (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
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HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Ryan Mallett's replacement as Arkansas' starting quarterback will have no shortage of playmakers at his disposal.

There's Knile Davis, a 1,300-yard rusher. And Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, Cobi Hamilton and one of the nation's best receiving corps.

The quarterback — whether it's Tyler Wilson or Brandon Mitchell — will have the luxury of at least five go-to guys not just one for defenses to focus on.

"Sometimes, particularly when you're inexperienced, you'll try to force the ball into that guy," Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino said Wednesday at Southeastern Conference media days. "I think our quarterbacks understand that we're very talented. It will really help us if you can turn it around and hand it to Knile 20 to 25 times a game and be able to get to the proper third downs."

Petrino left the competition open after spring practice to succeed Mallett, who led the Razorbacks to their first BCS bowl game. They competed well under half their passes in the spring game, and Mitchell threw three interceptions.

Whoever claims the job will have a strong supporting cast, and a team aiming to catch up with SEC West powers Alabama, LSU and Auburn — all of whom have won national titles in the past five years. Childs, Adams, Wright and Hamilton have combined for nearly 6,500 receiving yards and 50 touchdowns.

The starter also will have a coach in Petrino with a pretty good track record with quarterbacks, including Mallett, Brian Brohm, Jason Campbell and Jake Plummer. Petrino also knows he must be willing to simplify the offense for the new guy, even if Wilson is entering his fourth season and passed for 332 yards and four touchdowns against eventual national champion Auburn last year after Mallett was injured.

"That's my job to say, 'OK, this is what our quarterback does best, now let's take this nice, fancy playbook we have, set it over to the side and develop the offense around the quarterback, give him a chance to be successful,'" Petrino said.

The players seem to have identified Wilson as the heir apparent to Mallett.

Wright said the fourth-year junior was sure of himself and his abilities even before the Auburn performance.

"I don't think the Auburn game gave Tyler confidence," Wright said. "He's just confident. He's the type of guy that's going to walk around confidence and he carries himself with confidence.

"We have full faith in Tyler."

Davis thinks Wilson needs to just be himself.

"I don't think he's going to be a Ryan Mallett," the running back said. "He's going to be a Tyler Wilson. He's got his own identity, and he's going to do great things for us."

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