WITH A BREAKAWAY
threat such as Darren McFadden (page�70) 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.
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.
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.