Arkansas junior Brandon Mitchell has waited a long time to play quarterback in a significant game for the Razorbacks. He got the opportunity last Saturday, although the reason (Tyler Wilson’s concussion) and the result (a 52-0 loss to Alabama) weren’t exactly what Mitchell was hoping for when he stepped up center.
Mitchell — who had moved to receiver in the offseason with Wilson entrenched as Arkansas’ starter — shared quarterback duties with redshirt freshman Brandon Allen in the loss. He completed 1 of 7 passes for 19 yards and also added 18 rushing yards, running an option offense that was installed during the week.
Mitchell has continued to work at the position in practice this week as Arkansas awaits word on Wilson’s availability against Rutgers. If Wilson is not cleared, Mitchell will have an even bigger opportunity under center as Arkansas (1-2) tries to salvage its crumbling season beginning with the Rutgers game.
Mitchell spoke about Arkansas’ approach to the week, his experience at quarterback against Alabama, Wilson and white helmets during a question-and-answer session with the media Tuesday. Below are the highlights:
Q: What did you think of the two-quarterback system last week?
A: “I think it was a little bit difficult, our first time really running it in live action. I think it’s only going to get better as the year progresses. And (offensive line) coach (Chris Klenakis) invented that Pistol offense and things like that, so we’re learning it faster than most teams would.”
Q: Do you feel like there are things in the run game and the option you can build on?
A: “Oh most definitely. When we ran the ball we really moved the ball and the only time we stopped ourselves in the run was when we had dropped balls and fumbled snaps and things like that. But when we were executing, we were just moving the ball. And most of our runs were right downhill. We didn’t try to run outside or anything like that. We just went straight through the ‘A’ gaps and Knile looked fast.
Q: You guys are at 1-2 now. How do you approach the rest of the season now?
A: “You just can’t think ahead. Like (Tuesday) in the weight room, we tore down the whole schedule and we just put Rutgers on the board. That’s what you have to do. You have to literally take it week by week. With our case right now, we’re not even looking towards the game. We’re looking at one day at a time. Just getting better in practice. And in practice, we’ve got certain goals for each period now. Whether it’s running the ball, running to win, or in skelly, each pass. Just small goals you have to obtain to get to where you want to be at the end.”
Q: You really tore down the schedule?
A: “Oh yeah, we tore the schedule down and we just put Rutgers’ name up there. That’s what we’re looking forward to this week. That’s all.”
Q: Is it information overload with quarterback and wide receiver duties?
A: “No, it’s the same information. We’re running the same offense. It’s not anything new we’re learning. It just changes week by week. The plays. Which play is going to be called, depending on the coverage and things like that. And what kind of things they throw at you from a defensive standpoint.”
Q: How much does a second week of option work in practice help?
A: “It helps a lot. It also gives you something to build on. There’s no better experience than running it against the No. 1 defense in the country, running the option and things like that. If we were successful with it against them, I mean, we feel very comfortable with it. It’s Coach K’s offense. It’s something he has run all his life. It’s what made him famous, the Pistol. You see every team in the country running it. So we really believe in it and we learn it from the best.”
Q: You were excited after your 11-yard run and the facemask penalty.
A: “It felt great. That was just a lot of emotion built up from finally getting to play quarterback. Especially in a big game like that. I played last year at quarterback, but it wasn’t like big-time games like that. It felt great. Then to go out there and actually compete against Alabama, just enjoying the moment and trying to win at all costs. It didn’t matter. Just wanted to be out there making plays.”
Q: Is Tyler Wilson looking more like himself this week?
A: “He looked like himself last week at practice. He hasn’t missed a beat at all. He seemed a little sharper, making checks and things like that. He didn’t really try to do too much as far as thinking last week. But this week, he’s in the gameplan and things like that. He’s looking great.”
Q: So are you guys rolling with the white helmets Saturday?
A: “I actually like these helmets. It gives us a different look. You’ve got the white and the gray on there with the white and red hog. It looks great with the uniforms. I like the changeup and it also helps the recruits.”
Q: Do you think you’ll wear them against Rutgers?
A: “I hope so. I would like to wear them.”
The Thursday Q&A is a weekly feature during football season on the Hog Blog. Questions and answers come from group interview sessions with Arkansas players and coaches. So we can’t take credit for all of the questions that appear in the Q&A – especially the good ones!