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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

The Times' preseason college football countdown: No. 23 Arkansas

The Razorbacks' explosive offense, featuring quarterback Tyler Wilson, a group of terrific receivers and tailback Knile Davis, should make them contenders in the Southeastern Conference West.

August 08, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Can Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson keep the Razorbacks' offense rolling now that Ryan Mallett is gone?
Can Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson keep the Razorbacks' offense… (Danny Johnston / Associated…)

Ryan Mallett has left the arena … how about a round of applause?

The guy's arm was so strong the team once voted him "most likely to throw a watermelon through a keyhole."

He's probably going to make a terrific replacement someday in New England for Tom Brady. He has all the professional tools and the box they came in, yet he wasn't exactly Joe Montana in the clutch.

Mallett was "almost' legendary. He could have won the Heisman Trophy — but didn't. In stinging defeats against Alabama and Ohio State, Mallett lacked the magic touch that made Auburn quarterback Cam Newton famous.

Mallett will be missed by Arkansas, but not the way Stanford is going to miss Andrew Luck.

When Mallett was injured early last season against Auburn, backup Tyler Wilson stepped in and threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns — though with two interceptions.

It's not a stretch to think Wilson, or sophomore Brandon Mitchell, or the water boy, can keep Arkansas' explosive offense rolling.

"I think Tyler has an opportunity to do a very, very good job for us," Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino said. "He's been in the offense for four years now. He's done a good job when he's come in games. We all saw what he did in the Auburn game last year."

Arkansas has terrific receivers in Jarius Wright, Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Cobi Hamilton.

The best offense, though, might involve clearing out for tailback Knile Davis, whose 1,322 yards rushing led the Southeastern Conference last year.

Petrino: "It will really help us if you can turn it around and hand it to Knile 20, 25 times a game and be able to get to the proper third downs."

Arkansas has to replace its two starting offensive tackles, but everybody has to replace something.

The schedule couldn't be better. The Razorbacks get three tuneups — Missouri State, New Mexico, Troy — before the Sept. 24 SEC scene-setter at Alabama.

But no one's looking that far ahead, right?

"I wouldn't say we have any specific game circled," Wright said. "If you lose any of the first three games before the Alabama game, the Alabama game won't mean as much."

Arkansas won 10 games last year and had a decent chance to beat Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, a game the Buckeyes subsequently had to vacate.

Arkansas can/should/will challenge Louisiana State and Alabama for SEC West supremacy.

"We feel like setting big goals is the only way for us to get to the SEC championship," Davis said. "We have the players to do it. We just don't see why we can't."

Why not?

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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