FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas fans watched prolific passers during the Bobby Petrino era. But Bret Bielema’s quarterbacks seem unlikely to rival Petrino’s protégés.
Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson own nearly every Arkansas passing record, while Wisconsin had just one 3,000-yard passer during Bielema’s seven-year tenure. Even though Bielema’s quarterbacks are generally referred to as game managers, Arkansas sophomore Brandon Allen is confident the offense will be successful.
“It obviously is more of a balanced offense,” Allen said last week. “A little less passing and more running. But that’s something you need to win in the SEC. You need that balanced approach. You see the teams that are winning now.
“So I’m excited about it. I’m excited to get in that offense.”
Two former Badgers quarterbacks that played under Bielema are on National Football League rosters. After throwing for 3,175 yards and 33 touchdowns with only four interceptions and completing 72.8 percent of his passes in his only season at Wisconsin, NFL rookie Russell Wilson earned the starting job for the Seattle Seahawks in the preseason and has helped put them in the playoff hunt.
Another former Badger, Scott Tolzien, is the third-string quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Tolzien won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 2010 after leading the nation in completion percentage (74.3 percent in the regular season).
So Fayetteville High quarterback Austin Allen, who has verbally committed to the Razorbacks, said even though the Wisconsin quarterbacks are often considered little more than game managers it can lead to NFL opportunities.
Additionally, the Fayetteville native said he has seen quarterbacks in the SEC become game managers and have success doing so.
“Alabama quarterbacks like (AJ) McCarron and (Greg) McElroy are the ultimate game managers,” Allen said. “When you see McCarron's stats, they don't pop out at you, but he knows how to win games and seems to never put his team in a bad situation. All of that stuff gets you ready for the next level and Greg McElroy is already at the next level and AJ will probably get a chance to join him.
“You see how game managers win in the SEC, so it's an important role.”
Wisconsin is known for running the ball with backs like Ron Dayne, P.J. Hill, John Clay, Montee Ball and James White. Each rushed for 1,000 yards at least once. But Bielema said his teams are more balanced than they are credited.
“Our offense at Wisconsin during my seven years commonly got grouped into traditional Big Ten offenses,” Bielema said. “The part that is real is during my time at the University of Wisconsin, we did have great balance. We were one of two or three teams that ran for 200 and threw for 200 (yards per game).
“That shows great balance and it’s very difficult to defend.”
Bielema said the offensive philosophy will be adjusted depending on the team’s personnel, but admitted there would be a transition period. With a new playbook, new terminology and no clear-cut starter at quarterback, even the experienced signal callers seem to have little advantage over the newcomers.
Arkansas verbal commitment Tyler Cogswell, who was recruited by Wisconsin before choosing the Hogs, is confident the Razorbacks’ signal callers will get a chance to showcase their abilities under the new coach.
“I think if you come in and show you have the ability to throw the ball, they’ll rely on you a little more,” Cogswell said.