LITTLE ROCK — The summer lull in Arkansas sports is in full bloom. The next Razorback football coach has been done to death. It will be more than a month before some anticipated freshman football players join the veterans for fall practice.
The College World Series is a passing thing, appealing to Razorback fans in general because it reflects success in the UA athletic program.
We are reduced to a debate over the perceived slight of Razorback quarterback Tyler Wilson by the preseason football magazines. Football is the heart and soul of the program and how dare those magazines not name Wilson their preseason All-American qb.
Phil Steele’s publication went for Matt Barkley of USC, Landry Jones of Oklahoma, Wilson and Geno Smith of West Virginia.
Lindy’s lined up behind Barkley and Denard Robinson of Michigan.
College Football News picked Robinson, Barkley and Smith, in that order.
Athlon Sports went with Barkley, Smith and Robinson.
To me, “preseason” is elocuted with the same incredulity employed by former NBA star Allen Iverson in his two-minute rant about “practice” in 2002.
First, the magazines’ All-American teams are predicated on the production the publications expect from the honorees. Second, the only All-American team that matters is the one announced in mid-December. Third, being a college All-American is not synonymous with a first-round pick in the NFL draft or success in the pros.
Wilson had a superb 2011 season and was impeccable during spring practice when the quarterback was untouchable. His 101 of 146 attempts during the spring is about as meaningful as a 64 recorded during a practice round for the U.S. Open.
He might be hard-pressed to duplicate the 3,683 yards and the 4-to-1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions that were so vital in Arkansas’ 11-2 season. Doubters, magazines included, wonder about the departure of three NFL receivers and whether the production of running back Knile Davis could reduce Wilson’s opportunities.
On the other hand, Barkley might be throwing to the best wide receiver in the country in Robert Woods. And, there are others. “We are challenging this group to be the No. 1 wide receiver unit in the country,” said USC coach Lane Kiffin.
Robinson is an option quarterback whose ability to run could make for easy completions and Smith is going to the Big 12 where quarterbacks’ numbers are enhanced by the lack of defense.
None of them will face the defenses that Wilson will see from Alabama on Sept. 15 and from LSU Nov. 23 in Fayetteville.
A quarterback is often rewarded for his team’s success and any of those mentioned will be in line to be an AP All-American if his team is 12-0. Clearly, that honor and the NFL draft are not connected.
In 2003, All-American quarterback Jason White of Oklahoma was ignored in the draft. Two years later, AP All-American quarterback Troy Smith of Ohio State went in the fifth round. The 2000 All-American quarterback, Chris Weinke, was taken in the fourth round and his 2009 counterpart, Colt McCoy, was selected in the third round.
From 2001 on, the All-Americans were Rex Grossman, Carson Palmer, White, Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Smith, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, McCoy, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III. Griffin has yet to take a snap, but not one of the older players is among the elite.
The All-American designation means nothing to NFL teams who will attempt to project what Wilson and the others can do for them. In their eyes, the Arkansas quarterback will be far ahead of Smith, Robinson and Jones.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau.