FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Robert Johnson is getting another
chance to start at quarterback for Arkansas.
Johnson, benched midway through last season when the Razorbacks
needed a spark, was named the starter for 2006 on Wednesday night.
Coach Houston Nutt's announcement ended -- for now -- a three-way
competition between Johnson, Casey Dick and prized freshman Mitch
"We have named Robert Johnson the starting quarterback," Nutt
said. "Robert has improved greatly and we want everybody to get
behind him. Our team is excited."
Johnson started the first seven games of 2005 as a sophomore,
but Arkansas started 2-5. Dick, a freshman, had his redshirt
removed for the last four games. The Razorbacks finished 4-7, their
second straight losing season.
Dick threw for 584 yards with seven touchdowns and four
interceptions in 2005, and Johnson threw for 876 yards, five
touchdowns and six interceptions.
Johnson's prospects for this season appeared dim at first. Dick
had shown potential, and Mustain, the heralded in-state recruit
from Springdale High School, was on his way.
But Johnson played well during spring practice, and his
improvement continued in the fall. Also, Arkansas overhauled its
offense in the offseason, bringing in Gus Malzahn -- Mustain's coach
at Springdale -- to become offensive coordinator and hiring Alex
Wood as quarterbacks coach.
"It gave each one of us a fresh start, come in and learn a new
offense," Johnson said.
Meanwhile, Dick has been bothered by a back injury that has
caused him to miss some practice time.
"Right now, we are working with two quarterbacks," Nutt said.
"I feel for Casey Dick. He has been through a lot and he's very
frustrated. This is not what we planned."
Nutt said Dick wouldn't be ready for Arkansas' opener Sept. 2
against Southern California, and the team needs to move forward
with a clear No. 1 quarterback. He hopes Johnson will be helped by
having more experience than at this time last year.
"Robert Johnson is a little older and I think he is much better
now then he was a year ago," Nutt said. "We are going to keep him
going and hopefully our team will keep improving."
Mustain, who threw for 3,817 yards and 47 touchdowns at
Springdale last year, had talked about trying to win the starting
job, but he insisted all along he shouldn't be considered a savior.
Mustain didn't appear bothered by Wednesday's decision.
"That's something to be expected," he said. "I've still got a
lot to learn."