Before he’s finished at Arkansas, Ryan Mallett will own every passing record that exists at the university.
And at the rate he’s going, he may own a bunch of those records before he’s finished with his first season at Arkansas.
Already, Mallett has set or tied 10 different school records, and the Hogs still have three games remaining, counting the bowl.
Forgive the Michigan transfer if he has a ho-hum attitude about what he’s accomplished to this point. He came to Arkansas to win games, not set passing records.
“I’d like to have a few more wins and would trade in some of those records if I could,” said Mallett, who's thrown for a school-record 2,882 yards and also has 23 touchdowns, which is just three off the school record held by Clint Stoerner.
“My goal right now is trying to help this team win these next two games, so we can get down to Dallas (for the Cotton Bowl). I think we’re starting to peak, and that’s what we need to do, just keep building on the success we’ve had the last three weeks and just keep going up.”
The Hogs (6-4, 2-4) have won their last three games, and Mallett heads into the Mississippi State contest this weekend in Little Rock playing better than any quarterback in the league.
In his last three outings, Mallett is 60-of-73 (82.2 percent) for 982 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception. The game’s obviously slowing down for him, which is bad news for everybody the Hogs are going to face the rest of the way when you consider how physically gifted the 6-foot-7, 238-pound Mallett is with his rocket right arm and ability to make every throw.
“It’s a lot easier once you get into the season, once you get settled down and get into your groove and get into the flow of things,” Mallett said. “It makes everything a little slower on the field, and when you can slow the game down, that’s when you compete at your best.”
Mallett leads the country with 36 passes of 25 yards or longer. The next closest is Houston’s Case Keenum with 31. Mallett's quarterback rating of 196.81 in home games also leads the country, and his 1,973 passing yards at home rank second nationally.
Where Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino has seen Mallett make the most strides are with his demeanor on the field and with his fundamentals.
“He’s such a great competitor that there were times earlier in the year where he got all fiery and maybe lost his concentration a little bit,” Petrino said. “He’s really improved on playing one play at a time. He also continues to work on his footwork and setting properly and getting his back leg under his hip. When he does that, he can be as accurate a thrower as there is.”
The other thing Mallett has learned is that he doesn’t have to throw it 40 yards down the field every time just to hit a big play.
“He’s improved on his patience,” Petrino said. “When you have such a big arm and you can throw the ball and make different throws, sometimes you try to go deep all the time or try to fit balls in. I’ve really been impressed the last month with his patience and checking down to tight ends and running backs and really letting the defense dictate where you throw the ball.”
The only concern in Fayetteville about Mallett is that maybe he’s been too good too soon.
Having been out of high school now for three years, the third-year sophomore is eligible to enter the NFL draft if he chooses. There’s already been some chatter that he would be a first-day pick at worst.
Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said this week that Mallett needs to come back for another season to continue his growth as a quarterback.
As for Mallett, he’s not interested in talking about much past this weekend’s Mississippi State game, but acknowledged that he would consider his NFL options after the season.
“It’s something I’ll think about down the road when the season’s over,” Mallett said. “Right now, I haven’t decided either way.”
The good news for Hog fans is that Mallett talks about this program’s future like he’s planning on being a part of it, and the versatile group of playmakers around him will be virtually the same again next season.
“There aren’t a lot of guys around the country who can go out there and do what some of these guys can do,” Mallett said. “They’re quick. They’re athletic. They’re fast, and they’re shifty. I wouldn’t trade my weapons for anybody else’s in the SEC.
“The sky’s the limit for us. It’s up to us to see how far we go.”