Ryan Mallett did enough to help Arkansas win the Liberty Bowl 20-17 against East Carolina. I discussed yesterday his inconsistency in big games and how it's affected his completion percentage. He made only 41.7% of his passes against the Pirates, throwing for 202 yards and a touchdown. Arkansas didn't convert a single third down all night and struggled mightily in the red zone - all criticisms of Mallett in the past.
However, at the same time he was severely let down by his receivers for most of the game. He flashed that big arm, made all the throws. His accuracy was an improvement from what I've seen in the past. Sure - there were a few over thrown passes. But in general there were also some very good throws, threading a needle - putting it into the right kind of places. Mallett always presents a nice tight spiral and his throwing action is very good (he's 6'7" but releases the ball well over his head, probably at around 7'0"+).
It was also pleasing to see him take the majority of his snaps from under center. He moved around well - something that's concerned me in the past. That was an unexpected positive in what was overall a game in which we generally learnt nothing new. Mallett can make every throw - we knew that. He's got ideal size - we knew that. His accuracy can suffer in short-mid range - we knew that.
Brandon Marcello reports that Mallett wasn't prepared to reveal after the game whether he'll declare. I still think he's going to head for the NFL draft and possibly go earlier than I initially thought. Out of all the QB's in the 2010 class who are likely to be available, I think Mallett would be the one I'd be most willing to invest in. You don't have to concern yourself with his mechanics and he's carrying a NFL frame. His arm strength will demand respect and although he needs to refine his technique and polish that accuracy - I think he'll also benefit playing with better receivers.
Every college quarterback could use an extra year's seasoning. Mallett's situation is unusual in that he transferred from Michigan and although he's been around for a while - he's still only a red shirt sophomore. Realistically he could play in Arkansas for two more years. In an ideal situation, he'd be working on becoming a more complete prospect in that time with the Razorbacks and not sat holding a clipboard. But we know the situation financially these players face. Jake Locker is bucking a trend and taking the same risk Sam Bradford did. I'm not convinced pro scouts and GM's will be satisfied with Bradford's durability issues after his year of injuries. Jimmy Clausen isn't the top pick some are projecting in my opinion. Ryan Mallett could be the X-Factor in the 2010 draft as far as quarterbacks go.
Elsewhere... Bryan Bulaga is likely to make a decision on whether he'll declare after the Orange Bowl on Tuesday, reports Marc Morehouse. I think it's almost certain Bulaga will head for the pro's.