September 15, 2010

Dawgs to provide a stern test

Having spent 11 years as a defensive assistant in the NFL, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham knows what a pro quarterback is supposed to look like.

Arkansas' Ryan Mallett certainly fits that bill.

At 6-foot-6 and 238 pounds, Mallett certain possesses the size that NFL scouts covet, not to mention a cannon for a right arm with the ability to spread the football all over the field.

Considering Mallett posted a career night with a school-record 408 yards passing with five touchdowns in last year's game against the Bulldogs, Grantham is all too aware of the challenge that awaits his defense come Saturday's 12:01 kickoff at Sanford Stadium.

"He's very talented, a guy who can make all the throws, he's got a cannon for an arm and is a guy who is going to be a first-round pick," Grantham said. "We're going to have our hands full."

Mallett's numbers have certainly been impressive.

Already, the junior has set or tied 18 Razorback passing records, including touchdown passes in a season (30), passing yards in a season (3,624) and consecutive passing attempts without an interception (141).

He currently leads the SEC and is tied for sixth nationally with 351 yards of total offense per game while his 350.5 passing yards per contest are the most in the SEC.

Already, the transfer from Michigan is being mentioned as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. Mallett admits his own expectations are high.

"The expectations of me are high," Mallett said during SEC Media Days. "But they're even higher for myself. That's just how I was brought up, that's how I am."

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Mallett has thrown a touchdown pass in 14 of 15 games as a Razorback and in 16 of his 18 collegiate starts. He has thrown for at least three touchdowns in seven of his 14 starts at Arkansas.

That's not all.

Mallett has thrown for 200 or more yards 16 times (14 as a Razorback) and 300 or more yards on seven different occasions.

"He's one of the best," Bulldog cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "He knows how to use all his receivers, that's for sure. He's one of, if not the best, we'll see all year."

Grantham agrees, although he warns Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino won't forsake the run. Especially not after South Carolina was able to have so much success pounding the football with tailback Marcus Lattimore, who tore through the Bulldog defense for 182 yards on 37 carries.

"I think these guys will run the ball too, now. They've got an excellent coach and they're like anybody if you don't stop something then they're going to try to run it, too," Grantham said. "Just like every week, we've got a corrections period where you fix things that happened the previous week. Coaches watch tape, and if they see something that works then they're going to be like 'Oh, let's run this play, too. You're always making corrections, even if you're winning so from that standpoint we've got to be ready for anything like that they might try."

Mallett says he and the 12th-ranked Razorbacks (2-0, 0-0) aren't taking the Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1) lightly.

Not only is Saturday's contest big from the standpoint that it marks Arkansas' first SEC game, but it's the first of back-to-back games that will see the Razorbacks host defending national champion Alabama the following weekend.

"There's something about SEC play that brings out the best in teams and I suspect we're both (Georgia and Arkansas) going to play well," Mallett said during a Monday teleconference. "Games like this come down to who wants it more. We'll see what happens."

Petrino expects Georgia's defense to make a better showing than it did against South Carolina.

"They're fast and they're physical," Petrino said. "We have to be able to be the same. We didn't play with great technique last week, so that's something we have to improve."

Mallett said the Razorbacks will be ready.

"You know, obviously, especially in the state of Arkansas, the expectations are really high. We have even higher expectations of ourselves as a team. As far as the offense, we lost some great players and we also got some players coming back and incoming freshmen that are going to help," Mallett said. "You look at the defense; they're going to be better. We got guys coming in on the defense that are going to help the defense be better. I feel like this is the closest team I've ever played on, especially the three years I've been here. Really my whole life, this is the closest group of guys, especially as many of us as there are, that I've ever been a part of.

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