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13 Arkansas
Phil Taylor
August 20, 2007
The Hogs will make a run if their quarterback passes the test
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August 20, 2007

13 Arkansas

The Hogs will make a run if their quarterback passes the test

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WITH A BREAKAWAY threat such as Darren McFadden (page´┐Ż70) in his backfield, Casey Dick might seem to have the simplest responsibilities of any quarterback in the country: Hand the ball to McFadden, pitch the ball to McFadden or get out of the way so the snap can go directly to McFadden. "There's no question that having someone like Darren makes my job a lot easier," says Dick.

But Dick's role is more complicated, and definitely more important, than it sounds. The Razorbacks need enough of a passing game to keep defenses from stacking the line against McFadden, which means that a solid, consistent performance from Dick, a junior in his first season as the full-time starter, is essential.

Last year Dick was part of a muddled quarterback situation. Junior Robert Johnson started the opener but was moved to wide receiver the next week. Prized freshman Mitch Mustain was given a shot and showed flashes of brilliance, but even after Arkansas had gone undefeated in Mustain's six starts, coach Houston Nutt replaced him with the more experienced Dick. He had his moments while completing 49.2% of his passes for 991 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions, but quarterback play was far down the list of reasons that the Razorbacks won the SEC West.

After an off-season marked by turmoil-- Mustain transferred to USC and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who had unconvincingly denied rumors of a power struggle with Nutt over control of the play-calling, left to be a co-coordinator at Tulsa--Dick emerged as Arkansas's best, and essentially only, option at quarterback. If he struggles or suffers a flare-up of the back troubles that plagued him earlier in his career, the Razorbacks will have only inexperienced backups to turn to. But Dick doesn't expect either of those things to happen. "I'm completely healthy, so I've been able to put all my energy into preparing for the season," he says. "I know what's expected of me, and I'm ready to contribute."

It's up to the line to make sure he stays healthy. There are three new starters up front, but with new offensive coordinator David Lee installing more of a pro-style attack, the Razorbacks should significantly improve a passing game that was 108th in the country in each of the past two seasons.

"We're going to be able to throw the football," says Nutt. "The pieces are all in place, and Casey knows he's the starter from Day One, which is important. The other thing is, he knows he doesn't have to be a hero. The strength of our running game is going to open some things up for him, and he just needs to be ready to take advantage of that." Sounds easy, but don't underestimate the job. Or the fellow performing it.

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