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Mallett's Preparation at High Speed, Even If His Foot Isn't

Apr 8, 2010 – 6:00 PM
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Jim Henry

Jim Henry %BloggerTitle%

Ryan Mallett
Ryan Mallett hustled -- as best he could -- to escape the 30-mph wind gusts and 50-degree temperature early Wednesday evening. Mallett might be watching spring practice from the sidelines as he recovers from a broken left foot, but the quarterback's putting in extra work reviewing film and digesting an expanding playbook.

The five-month countdown to a new season for Mallett and Arkansas has the entire program on the move.

"The high expectations are why you play," Mallett told FanHouse. "We are looking forward to the challenge. Our goal is to be at the top, and that's what we are working to achieve right now. We want the expectations to be high and we thrive on that. We want to be great, too."

Mallett, 21, who is being mentioned in early Heisman Trophy chatter, has embraced his rehab since he injured his foot during 5:30 a.m. conditioning drills in February. Problems with Mallett's foot actually surfaced during the 2009 season but he wasn't hampered by the injury.

Mallett hopes to soon exchange his surgical boot for a regular shoe. He's expected to be fully recovered for the start of two-a-day practices in August.

Mallett said watching practice from the sidelines has given him a new perspective, further strengthening his leadership and preparation skills and making him a more well-rounded quarterback.

Fans might also be interested to know that the 6-foot-7 Mallett is pulling his weight without piling any on.

Mallett has concentrated on upper body exercises, stressed cardio by working a machine with his arms, and has squatted and done other exercises with his healthy leg. In fact, despite being limited in what he can do physically, Mallett has actually dropped weight and wants to get his frame from 228 back to 235 where he played last season.

And don't worry about his gifted right arm that set or tied 16 school records in his first year as Arkansas' starting quarterback last season and turned heads along the way. He's able to throw under supervision by the strength and conditioning staff.

Mallett actually views his role with the team the same as if he was healthy.

"Overall it has been going well," said Mallett, who threw for 3,624 yards and 30 touchdowns last year and, during one span, threw 141 consecutive passes without an interception.

"When we are on the field and I am out there trying to help the younger quarterbacks. By watching, I am also getting mental reps to make myself better and to help my team out. I've been able to see things and pick up things a lot better.

"I really didn't know how it would go, having to sit and watch, but it's really helping my game mentally -- I wasn't bad at it before -- but I can always get better at it and that's what I am doing right now."

An improved Mallett certainly bodes well for head coach Bobby Petrino and the Razorbacks, who return 17 starters from an 8-5 team that has attracted national preseason attention.

"When he sets his feet, he has tremendous arm talent," former NFL quarterback and television broadcaster Bob Griese said. "I had him a couple of games [last year] and every game he plays there is three to four throws during the course of the game that you say, 'Wow,' that was really special."

NFL draft guru Mel Kiper said Mallett, a junior, is likely to be a high pick in the 2011 draft if he declares, naming Mallett among the top three quarterbacks behind Washington's Jake Locker and Stanford's Andrew Luck.

"I knew what I wanted to do," Mallett explained.

"I just wanted to weigh my options and talk to my family and see what was best. I made the right decision. There are no regrets. Right now I am fully focused on being ready for the season and it's full steam ahead."

The reason for such high optimism in Fayetteville, Ark., centers on an offense that returns nine starters and ranked No. 3 overall (427.3 ypg), No. 1 in scoring (36.0 ppg) and No. 1 in passing (295.5 ypg) in the SEC.

The junior receiving trio of Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright has few peers. Four running backs return and the veteran offensive line, according to Mallett, is "a nasty bunch of ol' linemen who are ready to go in there and get after people."

In fact, Mallett said the team's overall toughness has improved dramatically.

"It's much more competitive now than when I first got here," Mallett said.

"It's really helping the program because guys want to get out there and compete for positions and it's really making us better. Coach Petrino has developed a winning attitude and we are more mentally tough, and players are taking that into games and into practices. I would say we are 10 more times physical than when I first got there."

That toughness, of course, will be needed on defense. While the unit ranked second in the SEC in turnovers forced with 30, it still ranked last overall in the SEC (401.2 ypg) - and last in pass defense (248.5 ypg).

Mallett, meanwhile, continues to remain focused, disciplined and busy.

"Once I am [cleared], I am going to concentrate on getting my timing back and building up my arm strength to where I am throwing 150 to 200 balls every day in practice," Mallett said.

"But right now I am getting a lot of mental reps. I go out and watch practice live and go back in and watch it on film. It's helping me become a better quarterback. I am picking up the movements of the defenses, looking at the front of the coverages and seeing where you should throw the ball -- the reads are easier to see."

All eyes, of course, will be on Mallett and the Razorbacks in 2010.
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