Wilson waits for his chance behind Mallett

Tyler Wilson came to Arkansas as one of the most decorated passers in Arkansas high school history.

He enters the 2010 season next in line to one of the best passers in all of college football.

Ryan Mallett is the Hogs’ quarterback. There’s no question about that. He’s mentioned prominently among the top quarterbacks in the country along with Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Washington’s Jake Locker.

But a year ago at this time, Mallett was still battling with Wilson for the Arkansas starting job.

And while Mallett has clearly separated himself with a 30-touchdown season a year ago, Wilson is more than capable as a backup. He passed for more than 8,000 yards and threw 93 touchdown passes in leading Greenwood High School to state championships his junior and senior years.

He’s had plenty of work as the Hogs’ first-team quarterback each of the last two springs and has played in seven games, albeit mostly in mop-up roles.

With Mallett sitting out this spring with a broken bone in his foot, Wilson took over as the Hogs’ No. 1 quarterback with mixed results. Initially, he pressed a bit too much and didn’t throw the ball consistently enough, but settled down two weeks into the spring.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is comforted by the fact that Wilson knows the offense much better now than he did at any point last season.

Garrick McGee, the Hogs’ offensive coordinator, said Wilson has also successfully made the transition from being a shotgun quarterback in high school to an under-the-center quarterback in Arkansas’ system.

Early on, simply taking the snap from center was one of Wilson’s biggest problems because he was in the shotgun the whole time he was in high school.

“His freshman year, we put him out there against Alabama and Texas, and he got beat up pretty good,” McGee said. “Our team, our players and our coaches have confidence in Tyler. If Tyler were to run out there, our team has confidence he’d get the job done.”

McGee said the 6-3, 215-pound Wilson is a classic drop-back passer.

“He can deliver the ball with different release points,” McGee said. “He doesn’t have to be standing square with his receiver to throw accurately. He can take a five-step drop and throw the ball down the field. There are some throws he makes better than Ryan Mallett.”

Even though Wilson played as a true freshman, he did so in just two games before coming down with mononucleosis and ended up receiving a medical hardship from the NCAA for that season. So he’ll only be a sophomore in 2010.

He won’t be able to coast when preseason practice resumes, which is a good thing for the Hogs. Redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Mitchell had some big plays in the spring game, and talented true freshman Jacoby Walker was also on campus for spring practice.

In other words, Petrino will have some options at quarterback, and he’s looking forward to seeing how the competition plays out in the fall for those No. 2 and No. 3 jobs.