FAYETTEVILLE To little surprise, Arkansas named Tyler Wilson its starting quarterback Thursday.
Wilson, a redshirt junior, had been thought to be the inevitable starter when the Razorbacks began the season against Missouri State on Sept. 3, but Razorbacks coaches waited to name a starter to maximize competition at the position in practice.
Wilson worked with the first team offense during spring drills and again all through this preseason.
“I feel like he’s the one who deserves it,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. “He has prepared hard and has done a good job in practice. He’s done a good job with his leadership.”
Wilson has been especially impressive in a pair of scrimmages this preseason. He completed 16 of 20 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns in a scrimmage Aug. 11.
Last Thursday, Wilson connected on 22 of 28 pass attempts for 391 yards and a “few touchdowns”. That scrimmage was closed to the public.
“You just start to feel comfortable and you just start to get it,” Wilson said. “All these reps in fall camp start to pay off, too. You start learning the details of the position and your accuracy increases with that.”
Tyler Wilson - Thursday Post PracticeWatch Video
Wilson, who won a pair of state championships as a starter at Greenwood High School, became a household name last season in a pair of relief stints for starting quarterback Ryan Mallett.
At Auburn, Wilson completed 25 of 34 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns after taking over in the second quarter. A week later, he completed 7 of 9 passes for 71 yards in a win over Ole Miss.
“You say you don’t as a back-up, but obviously you do (approach the game differently as a starter),” Wilson said. “You’re more prepared, you get all the (first team) reps. It’s a different mindset because you know you’re taking the first snap from under center.
“I’m happy to be in this position. It’s something I’ve been working toward for a while.”
Wilson was named a team captain earlier this month. Petrino said his leadership became apparent shortly after a close loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl last season.
“You could see Tyler say, ‘This is my time; I’m going to do everything I can possibly do to win the job as the starting quarterback,’” Petrino said. “You could see it in the amount of time he spent in the film room, the amount of time he got his teammates in there, how hard he worked personally in all the drills.
“He really took it to heart that the first way you lead is by example.”
Redshirt sophomore Brandon Mitchell, who worked with the first team offense some during the spring, will get some playing time in the opener, Petrino said.
“Brandon competed and gave him everything he had,” Petrino said. “I thought he really grew and matured as a quarterback. I really feel he will play in the game. I haven’t decided if it will be in the second quarter or not, but he definitely will get in the game and play quarterback in the game.”
Petrino said he hasn’t made the determination whether true freshman Brandon Allen will redshirt this season. Allen, a Fayetteville native, has worked with the Razorbacks’ third team offense this preseason.
Whoever is under center for Arkansas has a strong supporting cast around him. The Razorbacks boast four of the nation’s top receivers in seniors Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright, and junior Cobi Hamilton. The quartet was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list in the preseason – a record for the most players from one team.