QB Mallett staying at Arkansas
AP Sports Writer
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett is staying in college, passing up the NFL with an eye toward helping the Razorbacks become one of the nation’s elite teams.
Mallett announced his decision Friday. He threw for a school-record 3,624 yards this season, leading Arkansas’ young team to an 8-5 record. Mallett’s top wide receivers are expected back next season as well.
“We’re excited. We can’t wait,” Mallett said. “We’ve got a great team still that’s coming back.”
Mallett has two years of eligibility remaining, but his performance this season made him a candidate to jump to the pros early. He played at Michigan as a freshman in 2007, then sat out last season after transferring.
Mallett’s return should give Arkansas one of the nation’s top passing offenses. Sophomores Greg Childs, Jarius Wright and Joe Adams combined for 118 catches for 2,143 yards this season, and tight end D.J. Williams is also a receiving threat, assuming he sticks around for his senior season.
Arkansas beat East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl last weekend, although that wasn’t Mallett’s best performance. He went 15 of 36 for 202 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-7 quarterback said that game didn’t have a big effect on his decision.
“I talked to my parents after the game and talked to the coaches and decided that I wanted to be here,” Mallett said. “It’s where I need to be. I’ve got another year to grow and mature on and off the field.”
Mallett said he’s not concerned about getting hurt. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, missed all but three games this season with a shoulder injury, and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was hurt Thursday night in a loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game.
“If you play hard, you eliminate as much risk to get hurt,” Mallett said. “When I go play for the Razorbacks this fall I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. I’m not going to go play scared.”
This season, Mallett threw for 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions during a brutal schedule that included road games against Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and LSU. The Razorbacks lost to all four.
“The decision for him to take off right now and take the money while it was there would have been an immature decision,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee said. “He proved that we were right about him – that he is growing up.”
Of course, before Mallett made his announcement, there was apparently some miscommunication with coach Bobby Petrino.
“After the bowl game, I took a little time off just to clear my head and make sure everything was right in my head,” Mallett said. “I actually called coach Petrino and I was going to tell him I was coming back and he didn’t answer. Coach McGee called me and said, ‘I talked to coach and he heard you were leaving.’ And I was like, ‘No, I actually called him to tell him I was coming back but he didn’t answer his phone.”‘
Petrino was at Friday’s news conference but didn’t talk to reporters.
Arkansas has never won the Southeastern Conference in football. Florida drops off the Razorbacks’ schedule next season, and Alabama and LSU will come to Fayetteville. Mississippi lost quarterback Jevan Snead on Thursday when he announced he’ll skip his senior season and enter the draft.
“We expect to be in the SEC championship game,” McGee said.
If Arkansas lives up to expectations, Mallett could find himself in the Heisman race.
“We have a saying that the reason you come to the SEC and play quarterback is, you get your team to the SEC championship – that’s the first step,” McGee said. “You win that game, you get yourself in position to go to the national championship and win. And if you are the quarterback of a national championship team that won the SEC championship, you’re in position to win the Heisman.
“And I think it’s in that order. You’ve got to win first.”