Arkansas QB Wilson's spring overlooked
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)
The quarterback's sterling performance in practice is one of several Arkansas storylines that have been pushed aside since the April 1 motorcycle accident that eventually led to Bobby Petrino's firing.
Even now, as athletic director Jeff Long continues his search for Petrino's replacement, there's more talk on the air and Internet about the coaching rumor mill and names such as Jon Gruden, Pete Carroll and Gus Malzahn than how the Razorbacks have looked this spring.
Wilson earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors last season. He led Arkansas to an 11-2 record and Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State, throwing for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns in his first season as the starter.
And Wilson has been even better this spring.
Coaches and teammates alike have raved about his performance on the field and his leadership away from it - while the Razorbacks have dealt with the fallout from Petrino's sudden dismissal after he admitted to an affair and hiring his former mistress. He also gave her $20,000, which she used to buy a car.
Through it all, Wilson has shined. Unofficially, he is 80-of-106 passing (76 percent) with 13 touchdowns during Arkansas' three scrimmages.
''You'd be hard-pressed to find a quarterback out there who's had a better spring ball than him,'' Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. ''If he did, then he's Superman.''
Wilson's improvement began before spring practice even started. For the average football follower, however, his progress was a side note in the daily soap opera that was Bobby Petrino's final days at Arkansas.
Petrino's fall has had as much of an impact on Wilson as any other member of the Razorbacks. He's received text messages of sympathy and is well aware of the progress of the coaching search, or public lack thereof.
Wilson doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for him or his teammates. He committed to them after bypassing the NFL draft and returning to college after last season.
All Wilson wants now is to play football, the one thing he can control as everything else swirls around him.
''You have to keep your blinders on,'' Wilson said. ''I'm playing football and not trying to worry about all that other stuff. You don't know what is real and what is not. I've just got to keep my focus.''
Paul Petrino, who has been more affected by his brother's failings more than anyone else left at Arkansas, said practice during the last two weeks has served as an escape of sorts from reality for him and the players.
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''I think sometimes when you have different things going on in your life and you're an athlete or a coach, the nicest thing is to go out on that practice field, to be honest with you,'' Petrino said. ''Sometimes, the days you don't practice are harder than the days you practice when you have to sit around and think about it.''
Wilson's maturation isn't the only positive news that's been overshadowed at Arkansas this spring. Running back Knile Davis is healthy after missing last season with an ankle injury, though he won't take part in any contact drills for now.
Also, wide receivers Cobi Hamilton and Marquel Wade have shined as the top targets for the 6-foot-3 Wilson. The duo, along with tight end Chris Gragg, are aiming to fill the shoes of three of the top receivers in school history - Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs - who graduated after last season.
Still, this spring has been Wilson's show. It's a show his teammates expect to continue into the fall.
''I have to say, looking at Tyler every day, he's gotten better every day,'' Hamilton said. ''His swagger is just off the charts now compared to last spring. I think he's going to bring that swagger and confidence to the fall.''