John L., Mallett together at Arkansas

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It sounds like the start to a Big Ten joke.

What do you get when you cross a former Michigan State coach, a former Michigan quarterback and an SEC team without a punter?

They're finding out right now in Fayetteville, Ark.

Former Michigan quarterback Ryan Mallett, who transferred to Arkansas shortly after Rich Rodriguez was hired as Wolverines head coach, is taking snaps with the Razorbacks' first-team offense this spring. He's also helping out as a punter in practice because Arkansas' projected starter, junior college transfer Briton Forester, doesn't join the team until the summer.

Mallett started punting in seventh grade and continued throughout his high school career. His punting performance this spring has impressed Arkansas' special teams coach, former Michigan State head coach John L. Smith.

"If he were not a quarterback and could spend more time working at it, he could probably be a heck of a punter, maybe even punt at the next level," Smith said. "He's got great whip, great flexibility, a very strong leg, and his hands just engulf the ball."

Arkansas is more concerned about those hands taking snaps this fall, but Mallett could be an asset for Smith, hired in January after spending two seasons out of college football.

Mallett said if he needs to compete for the punting position in the fall with Forester, he'll look forward to the challenge.

"I would welcome it with open arms if that's what the coaches want," he said. "I'll do whatever they tell me to do."

Mallett could become the first Razorback to become the starting quarterback and punt since Brad Taylor in 1983.