A lot of people were surprised to see what Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett did to Georgia’s secondary this past Saturday night in Fayetteville. Lloyd Carr was not.
The retired Michigan football coach was the one who signed Mallett out of Texas High School in Texarkana, Texas, and played him as a true freshman in 2007. The Wolverines beat out Texas, LSU and numerous other schools for the 6-foot-7 quarterback, who was ranked the top prospect in his state and No. 4 in the nation in 2006.
“Yeah, I guess I made at least four or five trips down to Texarkana to see him,” said Carr, in Athens on Tuesday to speak to the Touchdown Club of Athens. “And you know, there’s just no way to get to Texarkana. You have to have connections just to get in there.”
Carr said Michigan was able to beat out Texas because they had a quarterback named Colt McCoy in hand. He said Mallett’s parents, Jim and Debbie Mallett, actually were Arkansas fans. But Houston Nutt was the Razorbacks’ coach at the time and, besides a tumultuous relationship with the fanbase there, he operated a run-oriented offense not well suited for this tall and lanky pocket passer.
“Even in high school he just had a terrific arm and was really accurate,” Carr said. “He could put the ball in places other people couldn’t.”
The plan was for Mallett to study under quarterback Chad Henne. But Henne was injured that first year and the Wolverines had to turn to Mallett early. He played in all 11 games that first season, getting three starts.
The first time Carr said he knew Mallett was something special was when Mallett made his second start of the year in place of the injured Henne. The young freshman turned in a fiery performance, completing 16-of-19 passes for 170 yards and running for a 10-yard touchdown to give the unranked Wolverines a 14-9 upset victory over 10th-ranked Penn State.
“You could see that competitiveness and calm under pressure,” Carr said. “You knew he was going to be a good one.”
Alas, Carr retired and Rich Rodriguez came to Ann Arbor, bringing his spread-option attack with him. Mallett decided to transfer to Arkansas and Carr thinks he will flourish there in coach Bobby Petrino’s pass-happy system.
“Couldn’t have worked out any better for him,” Carr said. “It’s the perfect situation. I don’t think Georgia is the only team Ryan’s going to do that against. He’s going to put up some big numbers.”