Mallett's break not a terrible break

Better now than the middle of June.

That was my first thought when I learned Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett broke his left foot Wednesday during conditioning drills.

Sure, not having him for spring practice is anything but ideal. But he has plenty of time to recover and should be throwing with his receivers by June.

The summer months are often times as important as spring practice, especially when it comes to getting down the right timing in the passing game.

The other thing to remember is that Mallett isn’t a neophyte. He’s been around Bobby Petrino’s offense for two years now. He was on the practice field and in all the quarterback meetings in 2008 -- the season he sat out after transferring from Michigan.

He knows this offense. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of the players around him, and he knows what it’s going to take for the Hogs to take it to the next level in 2010.

A big part of that will be Mallett making this his team. He needs to lead Arkansas the way Tim Tebow led Florida and the way Colt McCoy led Texas.

And that’s something he can work on whether he’s in uniform this spring or not.

Mallett isn’t a finished product, and he was smart enough to realize that when he made the most important decision he has faced to this point in January. He probably would have been one of the top quarterbacks taken had he entered the NFL draft, but he wouldn’t have been ready.

Not yet. Over time, those guys usually don’t make it in the NFL.

Dragging a cast around, Mallett won’t have any choice but to live in the film room over the next three months.

That’s where he will go from a quarterback with a lot of talent and all the tools to a quarterback no defensive coordinator wants to face -- period.

We know Mallett can throw it. We know he has a big-league release. We know he’s going to be one of the top returning quarterbacks in the country.

What we don’t know is whether he has all the intangibles and the proper seasoning after one tour through the SEC to be a truly great quarterback in this league.

We weren’t going to find out this spring.

Those questions are answered in the fall.