Hogs' Brandon Mitchell branching out

Hogs' Brandon Mitchell branching out

August 8th, 2012 by Wire Service in Sports - College

Brandon Mitchell

Brandon Mitchell

Photo by ADG

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Brandon Mitchell is no stranger to doing whatever it takes to get on the football field. Or the basketball court, for that matter.

The Arkansas backup quarterback, who also has played some in two seasons with the basketball Razorbacks, decided to try something new during the summer -- even for him.

Mitchell, stuck behind incumbent starting quarterback Tyler Wilson, asked offensive coordinator Paul Petrino to split his practice time between quarterback and wide receiver. The junior had never played receiver before at any level of his football career, but he was willing to try just about anything to get game action.

The experiment has had immediate and much-needed results early in camp for the Hogs, who lost three receivers to the NFL draft from last season. And if Mitchell's accelerated learning curve continues, there's a strong chance he'll play more out wide than under center this season.

"He's one of our best receivers right now," Petrino said.

Mitchell's transition began shortly after the end of spring practice in April. He was talking one night with Wilson, who knew one of the reasons Mitchell played basketball last spring was because of his lack of playing time with the football team.

After sensing Mitchell's frustration, Wilson had a question for his good friend.

"What other positions can you play?" Wilson asked.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Mitchell played free safety in high school in Louisiana, but he quickly scratched that idea because he knew a move to defense would signal the end of his career as a quarterback. It wasn't a career he was ready to give up after completing 22 of 32 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns in limited action last season.

It was Wilson who suggested receiver because of Mitchell's soft hands in practice. Wilson asked Petrino about the move, and once it was green-lighted, Wilson and Mitchell worked all summer on their routes and timing.

"I haven't been able to compete in a while since I've been here," Mitchell said. "You come from high school, where you're used to being the starter and always being out there on the field and being able to compete and lead your team to victory."

Arkansas has a thin receiving corps following the departures to the NFL of Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright. The Hogs also suffered another blow in May when receiver Marquel Wade, who was a top threat in the spring, was arrested for burglary and eventually dismissed from the team.

Mitchell still spends his meeting time with the quarterbacks, but his practice time has increasingly been spent with the receivers.

"I trust him," Wilson said. "He's a guy I sit in that meeting room with every day, and I know that he's competitive as heck and wants to win just as bad as I do. He's a tremendous athlete."

PSU alums to appeal

A group of former Penn State players has notified the NCAA that they intend to appeal the harsh sanctions placed upon the football program for the Jerry Sandusky child-sex-abuse scandal.

Former Nittany Lions quarterback Michael Robinson and seven others who played for Penn State at some point during the 14 seasons in which the NCAA vacated victories sent an intent-to-appeal letter to the NCAA dated Aug. 7.