Watching Tyler Wilson’s near flawless performance in Saturday’s Red-White football game I couldn’t help thinking about the man who gave him a chance to be a Razorback in the first place. Wilson was likely headed to Tulsa after a stellar career at Greenwood High School. He was not on Houston Nutt’s radar screen during the 2007 recruiting season.
When Nutt departed for Ole Miss and Bobby Petrino came in he quickly offered Wilson a scholarship.
Wilson played briefly his freshmen year, throwing a touchdown pass in Arkansas’ lopsided loss to Alabama. He then came down with mononucleosis and eventually was granted a medical hardship or he would not be returning to play for the Razorbacks in 2012.
It was hard on Tyler sitting behind Casey Dick and then Ryan Mallett for a total of three seasons. He wasn’t used to riding the pine. Clearly frustrated, on media day in August of 2010 he told me that he wasn’t sure he would ever start for Arkansas.
There was no chance of that. Petrino had a plan for Tyler Wilson but like all things Petrino did it would happen when the head coach was ready for it to happen.
Tyler’s first big chance came in the Auburn game that season. When Mallett went down in the first half Wilson came off the bench and engaged eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton in a scoring shootout.
He also came in for Mallett in the fourth quarter of the Ole Miss game helping the Hogs to hang onto a late lead.
A year ago at this time I felt like the only thing Tyler Wilson needed was a big shot of confidence. This was going to be his team in 2011 and he needed to become a leader. You can’t lead without confidence.
All of us saw Petrino put Tyler through hell on the sidelines last fall. But each time he got his butt chewed he came back stronger. In the end the Razorbacks had 11 wins and Tyler Wilson was named the first team all-SEC quarterback, Arkansas’s first to be so honored.
Bobby Petrino won’t be around for the 2012 season but his handiwork will be. The man could flat develop quarterbacks and Wilson is proof of that. None of us can know right now how this team will fare minus the man who built this team almost from the ground up starting in 2008 but if any group of players and assistant coaches can survive what they’ve been through it is this bunch.
In Saturday’s spring game Tyler Wilson had the look of eagles in his eyes. He was a coach on the field calmly handling every situation as if to say to the crowd of 45 thousand watching, “We’re going to be fine.”
As for Petrino, a friend of mine put it this way, “I’m still mad as hell at him what he did to these kids, his coaches and all of us but he didn’t exactly leave us with a short deck, did he?”