FAYETTEVILLE, AR - APRIL 24: Quarterback Tyler Wilson of the Arkansas Razorbacks speaks to the media at the press conference to announce new Head Coach John L. Smith in the Raymond Miller Room on April 24, 2012 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Remember the opening montage? Of the team plane making its descent into Northwest Arkansas, with soundbites from the previous week's contest against Texas A&M overlapping each other?
The ESPN Year of the Quarterback "Depth Chart" episode that focused on quarterbacks Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell, and their relationship with then offensive coordinator Garrick McGee was not just a compelling piece of sports entertainment offered up for the voracious appetite of college football fanatics across the country. It also served, simultaneously, as a preliminary job interview to every school in the country for McGee, a window into the oft dreamed about but seldom experienced quarterback fantasy of just about every red-blooded male on the planet, and an hour-long advertisement for University of Arkansas athletics.
It was slick and extremely well produced, but I remember having an uneasy feeling upon finding out about the production. How much of a distraction would it be? What kind of light would our coaches and our program be cast in? Would it reinforce the tired stereotype of Arkansas as a backward place with backward people? Finally, what would all that camera time mean for Garrick McGee and his future?
When news broke earlier this week that the CBS Sports College Network series College Football Confidential would be following the Razorbacks program for the 2012 season, I felt the same pangs of uneasiness and doubt. How much of a distraction will it be? In what kind of light will it cast our coaches and players? Will it reinforce the tired stereotype of Arkansas as a backward place with backward people?
Then I thought about the situation for about two seconds and laughed.
Camera crews a distraction? Since the filming of the ESPN special, Garrick McGee did indeed improve his lot in coaching, graduating to his first head gig at Alabama-Brimingham. Brandon Mitchell is now spending the bulk of his time as a wide receiver, determined to help the Razorbacks in whatever way he can. I think we all know what happened to Bobby Petrino. And then there is Wilson.
Wilson, who dealt with the onslaught of ESPN's cameras and producers during Auburn Week 2011 only to come out when the lights were on and complete 19 consecutive passes, third-most in SEC history. Who built on that by leading his team to an 11-win season, a top-five finish in the polls, and a speeding locomotive's worth of momentum heading into 2012 that could only be derailed by a speeding object of much smaller stature. Wilson, who served as a leader and by many accounts a coach during a crisis so surreal and inane it could only go down at Arkansas. Who managed to play so well during the spring of 2012 that people sat up and took notice even through the smoke of Bobby Petrino's wreckage.
And I should be worried about a cameraman and some producers?
Yes, the scope of the production is larger this season, the outsiders embedding themselves among the entire team for a much longer time frame. That also serves to widen the pool of leaders and representatives to be proud of. In addition to Wilson, Knile Davis and Tenarius Wright and Alfred Davis and Cobi Hamilton will have a chance to shine. The Razorbacks are not in short supply of battle-tested leaders. College Football Confidential: Arkansas will serve as just one more opportunity to illustrate that on a national stage.
No, my worries about the ill effects of an embedded television crew during the 2011 season were unfounded, just as my initial reaction to the news this week was. This is a good thing. Arkansas has the right people in the right places. People that will conduct themselves with maturity and be wonderful faces for a program that is intent on maintaining its current trajectory. Last season, the only fear that ultimately came to pass was that of losing Garrick McGee to a head coaching job somewhere. After the off-season we have all endured, how minuscule does that sound at present?
Besides that, if these types of programs do serve as a de facto job interview for assistant coaches, I suspect Paul Petrino will endear himself to many programs over the course of this season. Curiously, the most important, most attentive one might be Arkansas itself. That alone will be reason for me to tune in.
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