Ryan Mallett broke numerous school records prior to forgoing his senior season at Arkansas and entering the NFL draft.
Coach Bobby Petrino, though, isn't expecting much of a drop-off with Tyler Wilson under center -- especially with the quartet of explosive receivers he'll have at his disposal.
Wilson looks to pick up where Mallett left off when the 15th-ranked Razorbacks open their season against Missouri State in Fayetteville on Saturday night.
Mallett, who set or tied 43 school or stadium records during his two seasons with Arkansas, completed 266 passes for 3,869 yards and 32 touchdowns last year -- all single-season program highs. He led the team to a 10-3 record and its first BCS bowl appearance in the Sugar Bowl last season, but a chance to play at the next level was to good to pass up.
With Mallett out of the picture, Wilson is finally getting a chance to make a name for himself as a junior. He used a medical redshirt as a freshman and saw limited playing time over the last two seasons.
"I think it started when we came back from the bowl game," Petrino said. "You could see Tyler say, 'This is my time, and I'm going to do everything I possibly can do to win the job as the starting quarterback.'
"We feel like he deserves it. He's prepared hard. He's done a good job in practice and working hard at his leadership."
Wilson showcased his talents during a 65-43 loss at Auburn on Oct. 16 after Mallett was removed with a concussion. Wilson threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns in that game, the type of production Arkansas faithful are surely hoping to see more of this season.
"What gives us confidence is the confidence he brings to the huddle," receiver Cobi Hamilton said. "It's similar to Ryan. Everybody has confidence in Tyler. He knows the offense, he knows where everybody is supposed to be and just the timing we have with Tyler ever since I've been here."
Wilson hasn't started a football game since he was a high school senior in 2007 and is anxious to take the field.
"I think after the first few plays I'll be settled in and I'll be right where I need to be," he said. "That anxiousness will kind of find its way out."
Throwing to the junior Hamilton and seniors Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright should make Wilson's transition to starter all the more smooth. Those four caught a combined 172 passes for 3,125 yards and 24 touchdowns last season.
"They are a good group of receivers," Petrino said. "They've shown it for three years now and they are very productive. It's a good combination."
Childs, Adams, Wright and Hamilton were all named to the preseason Biletnikoff Award watch list and have high hopes for the season.
"We've even got guys behind us that are incredible," Hamilton said. "It's a lot of fun to watch all of us work every day. With the talent we have, I don't see why we can't go back to a BCS game or the national championship."
While Arkansas expects its passing game to thrive, running the ball could prove difficult without workhorse Knile Davis, who fractured his left ankle during practice Aug. 11 and could miss the entire season. Davis led all SEC running backs with 1,322 rushing yards last season.
The Bears, meanwhile, will be without starting quarterback Trevor Wooden as he serves a one-game suspension for violating team rules. It is unknown if Mitchell Jenkins or Kierra Harris will start in Wooden's place.
Missouri State, which finished 5-6 last season, will likely look to running back Chris Douglas to carry the load offensively. Douglas became the 10th running back in school history to rush for 1,000 yards last year, compiling 1,051 on just 152 carries.
The Razorbacks have outscored the Bears 294-33 en route to taking all six meetings -- including a 100-0 victory when the teams first met 100 years ago.
The schools also met in the season opener in 2009, with Wilson throwing for 138 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Mallett in Arkansas' 48-10 win.
Top 25 Overview
The Hogs aren't running away from expectations and have their eyes set squarely on competing for a national championship. Bobby Petrino, in his fourth season as Arkansas coach, has always been known for his high-powered offenses, but it's his veteran defense that might be the difference this season.