Arkansas' Wilson has sights set on next season
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)
It didn't take long for that first text message to come through to Tyler Wilson's cellphone.
Minutes after the Arkansas quarterback was projected by one publication as the top pick in next year's NFL draft, Wilson was made aware of the news by a friend.
The realization that he was that high on the NFL's radar was equal parts satisfying and humbling for the Razorbacks' signal-caller, who turned down the opportunity to enter this year's draft.
It also showed just how far the senior has come in the last year and serves as a reminder of what he hopes to accomplish in his last go-around at Arkansas.
''Obviously, that's a little bit flattering, but we've got to take care of stuff on the field in order for that to happen,'' Wilson said. ''I'm not going to get ahead of myself.''
The Razorbacks were 11-2 last season, losing only to national champion Alabama and runner-up LSU, and they finished the season ranked No. 5. Much of that success was thanks to Wilson, who earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors in his first season as a starter after throwing for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns.
After Ryan Mallett left early for the NFL, Wilson battled last spring and summer to earn the job. Even before he was named the starter last August, Wilson took charge of the Razorbacks, organizing summer workouts and throwing sessions.
His effort didn't go unnoticed by his teammates, who voted Wilson one of the team's captains even before he was named the starter. Wide receiver Cobi Hamilton believes Wilson has a realistic chance at being next year's top overall draft pick.
''He really wants to be the best quarterback in the country,'' Hamilton said. ''I think he takes that to heart and that he's more than capable to be that guy.''
While Wilson spent much of last summer proving himself to teammates, he enters this offseason as the clear leader of the Razorbacks. The newfound notoriety has led to a series of logistical issues for Wilson, who last summer threw with teammates and worked on timing 4-5 days a week for nearly two hours at a time.
Wilson has already been invited to several quarterback camps this summer, including the prestigious Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana.
However, he won't commit to taking time off from his summer workouts in Fayetteville until his teammates agree. His mind is fully on the daily grind of the summer, with plans to work on 7-on-7 drills and 2-minute end-of-game situations.
''It's an opportunity you don't miss, but I also think the team is very important and you don't want to miss something that's important workout-wise during the summer,'' Wilson said.
Wilson considered entering this year's draft before meeting with former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and deciding to return to try and lead the Razorbacks to SEC and national championships. That decision didn't come without risks, however, and Wilson paid close attention as four quarterbacks were taken in the first round last week. To ease any concern of injury, Wilson took out an insurance policy, though he declined to say for how much.
''I think it gives you a little comfort, knowing you've got something to fall back on,'' Wilson said. ''You can go out there and play and not worry about (injuries) and let everything take care of itself.''
Both Wilson and Arkansas running back Knile Davis have appeared on several Heisman Trophy watch lists for next season. Davis said the high expectations have made it easier for him and Wilson to stay motivated and focused, even following Petrino's firing last month and the subsequent hiring of John L. Smith as his replacement.
''We all have a lot riding on it, so it's not hard to stay hungry,'' Davis said.
While Wilson hasn't shied away from saying he'd like to win the Heisman and be the No. 1 pick in next year's draft, the Greenwood, Ark., native would trade both to win a championship with his home-state Razorbacks.
''Those are things you shoot for, but we've got a lot of work to do on the field first,'' Wilson said.