Arkansas QB Dick soaking up Petrino's wide-open offense (cont.)
It's a mantra that has helped Dick carry on throughout a career that hasn't always gone according to plan.
He was supposed to redshirt his freshman year in 2005, but then-starter Robert Johnson struggled mightily and Dick was forced into action with four games remaining. That spring he suffered a setback when he injured his back and Johnson started the '06 opener before freshman Mitch Mustain took over the next week. Dick bided his time and started the last five games after Mustain, who has since transferred to USC, was benched.
Last season the No. 1 QB spot was Dick's alone, but Nutt wanted the ball in McFadden's hands as much as possible. Arkansas regularly employed the "WildHog," sending Dick to the sidelines.
"When you had the types of guys that we had back -- Darren, Felix and Peyton [Hillis] -- and you see how many yards and how many big plays they give us, it's kind of exciting in one sense," Dick said. "But in the other sense you're mad because you're not on the field. But it probably won us a couple of games and we got some big plays out of it"
Those big plays came at the expense of the passing game, which was 112th in the nation last season (largely due to the absence of Marcus Monk, who played in just six games last season after undergoing knee surgery). The aerial attack was such a non-entity that the top two receivers on Petrino's first depth chart, junior London Crawford and sophomore Carlton Salters, had a combined 12 receptions last season.
But for all the knocks against the Razorbacks' passing game, Dick wasn't nearly as bad as the message boards would lead you to believe. He threw for 1,695 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a junior and his percentage of touchdown-passes-per-attempt (18 TDs on 262 passes for 6.87 percent) was third in the SEC last season behind Florida's Tim Tebow (9.14) and Kentucky's Andre Woodson (7.72). His 57.3 completion percentage is second to Tebow (66.9) among the conference's returning starters.
It looked like there would be growing pains when Petrino brought his wide-open attack to Arkansas after abruptly leaving the Atlanta Falcons, forcing the Razorbacks to adapt to their fourth offense in as many years. (Dick says Petrino's playbook is the thickest yet.) There very well could be, especially with a schedule that includes a four-game stretch of Texas, Alabama, Florida and Auburn. But with Dick thriving in the system this spring, those fears have at least abated for the time being.
"I don't think anybody's really complaining about [the offense]," Dick said. "Everybody's really excited and looking forward to it, getting more touches and spreading the ball around more and just keeping the defenses from being able to key on one thing."
A record crowd of 40,200 filled Donald R. Reynolds Razorback Stadium to see the Petrino Era begin in the spring game. What they saw early looked awfully familiar, as junior Michael Smith tore off a 21-yard touchdown run on the game's first possession. Then things took a drastically different course from the team that ran 70 percent of the time in 2007, as Dick threw the ball 49 times in carving up the second-team defense. Dick hit Crawford for a 4-yard touchdown and tight end D.J. Williams on an 11-yard scoring strike.
But that was against second-stringers. Can the oft-criticized Dick really deliver the same gaudy stats when he's asked to be more playmaker than caddy? So far, Petrino like what he sees.
"He's shown that he understands what we expect of him now [and he's] working hard at it," Petrino said.