AP Sports Writer
LITTLE ROCK — It’s the most talked-about left foot in the SEC — and Ryan Mallett is amused by all the fuss.
Mallett said Thursday he expects to be at full strength when fall camp starts despite breaking his foot back in February. Arkansas has said all along the injury shouldn’t affect the 6-foot-7 quarterback during the season, but nobody will know for sure until Mallett steps back into live competition.
“Everybody’s worried, but we kind of laugh at everybody because they don’t think we’re going to be ready,” Mallett said in a teleconference Thursday. “We’re going to be ready.”
Mallett hurt himself during conditioning drills and was initially expected to recover in three to four months. He was extremely limited during spring practice and had a screw replaced in the foot about a month ago, although he says that procedure was expected.
He says he can participate in passing drills and is keeping his conditioning up to par by swimming.
“I feel like I could try out for the Olympics right now,” Mallett said. “I’ve gained a whole new respect for swimmers. I’m used to just kicking around in the pool, but this has really kept me in great condition since I haven’t been able to run.”
After transferring from Michigan, Mallett sat out a season at Arkansas before finally playing for the Razorbacks last season. He made an immediate impact, throwing for 3,624 yards and 30 touchdowns as the Razorbacks went 8-5.
After toying with the idea of turning pro, he decided to come back to the Hogs.
“I felt like I owed it to the state. They let me come in and transfer here to Arkansas, and I felt like it wouldn’t be fair after one year to just up and leave,” said Mallett, who is from Arkansas. “And when you look at the guys we’ve got coming back, it’s kind of like, ’How would you not want to come play on a team that has a chance to be great?”’
All of Mallett’s top receiving targets from last year return as well, meaning the sky is the limit for Arkansas, at least on offense. If the Razorbacks’ defense comes around, they could contend for their first Southeastern Conference title.
Mallett is already dealing with increased expectations. He’s considered a Heisman candidate and on Wednesday was picked for a watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award, which goes to the nation’s top quarterback.
Mallett’s biggest weakness last year was probably his accuracy. He threw only seven interceptions but completed only 56 percent of his passes. He seemed to struggle with shorter dump-offs — passes that can keep drives alive against good defenses that take away deeper routes. Mallett is also a big target because of his tall frame, meaning his footwork and mobility are important. The more he can practice at full speed, the better.
The Razorbacks start practice Aug. 5.
“I’m fully expecting to be ready to full go by camp,” Mallett said. “Unless something changes, that’s the plan.”