Tyler Wilson clearly had a better Saturday than Brandon Mitchell, but Arkansas head coach Bobby…
His 332-yard, four-touchdown career day against Auburn – accomplished in just over two quarters - and some relief work in a win over Ole Miss gave Wilson, his teammates and Razorback fans confidence about the future.
"I was in a situation where it actually meant something for the first time," Wilson said. "I think you carry yourself differently and your mental aspect is completely different. You have got to step up. It is no more fourth quarter, mop-up duty. It is time to play. It is amazing how much your mindset is different when that's the case. It was vital for me and a stepping stone and I will be able to build on that."
Wilson was lauded by his teammates as soon as he got to the huddle.
"That was good to hear and I did see a lot of that from guys, got a lot of pats on the back, saw some confidence coming from the other guys in the huddle," Wilson said. "That is a nice thing to have as a quarterback, knowing that they have got your back. I think that was big for me."
He won the respect of senior offensive lineman Ray Dominguez in that Auburn game.
"As an offensive line and just skill players, everybody who feeds around the quarterback, when he is making plays like that, you just feed off of it," Dominguez said. "You are willing to block for your guy as long as it takes. I think Tyler came into that game with tremendous confidence and he gave confidence to us that he was going to make plays and we just needed to block for him.
"I looked up and the guy was like 12 for 12 or 13 for 13 before his first miss," Dominguez added.
Wilson, 34-of-51 for 453 yards this season while playing in six games, flourished again in last Saturday's scrimmage as bowl practices continued for the Jan. 4th Sugar Bowl match-up between Arkansas (10-2) and Ohio State (11-1).
Those practices will resume after the Razorbacks report to New Orleans on Wednesday.
"They (bowl practices) are going to help," Wilson said. "As far as reps, Ryan's got the majority of the ones and I've got the majority of the twos. A couple of days ago, I got a lot of one reps and it was good for me in a scrimmage. I got a lot of positive things accomplished in the scrimmage the other day."
That was also the view from Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee.
"I think our players have a lot of confidence in him," McGee said. "He took a lot of reps in that scrimmage Saturday with our ones and threw a lot of touchdowns – to Joe, Jarius, Cobi Hamilton caught a post for a touchdown. So they have a lot of confidence in Tyler, which gives him a lot of confidence. And the fact that he has been out there in the Auburn game and the end of that Ole Miss game, those were pressure situations and he needed to come through and I think that gives him confidence going into the spring."
Arkansas running back Knile Davis said things will be a little different offensive-wise next season – if Mallett enters the NFL draft as expected – because Wilson, redshirt freshman Brandon Mitchell and true freshman Jacoby Walker are all mobile.
"Tyler is a good quarterback, really good," Davis said. "I am anxious to see what he does in the spring. We have two other good young quarterbacks in B-Mitch and Jacoby. They are real good and they are going to give him a run for his money.
"It will probably be different schemes because Tyler can move better than Mallett can," Davis said. "We'll see how spring goes."
The Arkansas staff views bowl workouts as extra spring practices.
"That's the benefit of getting into a bowl game that is going to be played this late in the season," McGee said. "Tyler gets a lot of reps throughout the season and has actually played in some pressure situations. But for Brandon, Jacoby and (freshman walk on) Brian Beuhner, this is really good for them because we have spent a lot of individual time with them because you don't have the pressure of there's a game this Saturday.
"I think they have done well," McGee added. "I think Brandon is throwing the ball as well as we have seen him throw it. He really did benefit from being around this season and preparing to play each and every week."
McGee noted that Mitchell was real close to playing against Auburn.
"There was actually a play in that Auburn game where Tyler took a really bad spill with his ankle and I thought Brandon was going to go out there so he was close to actually being on the field. I expect him to have a really good spring for us."
Wilson – rightly or wrongly – had become known for his problems with snaps under center, something he didn't take during a standout career for Greenwood. "I'm not sure how it originated," Wilson said. "There were some early scrimmages where that was a problem, especially my freshmen year. We were rotating a bunch of guys (centers) in and out. You don't notice that aspect some times other than the guy who is playing quarterback.
"The fact that I hadn't taken snaps since the eighth grade blew it up, but we haven't had trouble with that in a long time," Wilson said. "I think we have definitely moved forward."
There has been a constant this season at center in redshirt freshmen Travis Swanson.
"Travis is a great guy and when he first got here he was one of the guys that I really, really bonded with and had a connection with as far as centers," Wilson said. "That is what you have got to have and we communicate well together. Travis did a lot of really good things this year, was a first-team freshman All-American and I look forward to working with him for a long time to come."
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