NCAA FB

Arkansas' Mitchell making most of move to WR

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)

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 has also seen action in two seasons with the Razorbacks basketball team, decided to try something new during the summer - even for him.

Mitchell, stuck behind incumbent starting quarterback Tyler Wilson, asked Arkansas 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 see game action.

The experiment has had immediate and much-needed results early on in camp for the Razorbacks, 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 see more action 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.

Mitchell played free safety while 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 completely on after completing 22 of 32 passes for 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns in limited action last season.

It was Wilson who suggested receiver because of Mitchell's soft hands in practice, an idea that caused Mitchell to give the Heisman Trophy hopeful some good-natured grief.

''I don't know, Tyler,'' Mitchell joked. ''You don't really throw the ball in the right place sometimes and I don't feel like diving for you.''

Wilson asked Petrino about the move and once green lighted, Wilson and Mitchell worked all summer on their routes and timing. The work was a welcomed relief for Mitchell.

''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.''

Mitchell's presence has also come at exactly the right time for a thin Arkansas receiving corps following the departures to the NFL of former receivers Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright. The Razorbacks 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 for the team for at least this season.

Mitchell has quickly become a reliable underneath option for Wilson in practice. He still spends his meeting time with the quarterbacks, but his practice time has increasingly been spent with the receivers while freshman quarterback Brandon Allen has taken more snaps behind Wilson.

''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.

''... That's just another quarterback eye that you have out there on the field for you, and it really helps you out.''

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Mitchell has also helped bring what Petrino called ''a toughness'' to the receiver position because of his size and blocking ability.

''He's going to make our outside running game better because he's going to hold point out there, almost like playing with two tight ends sometimes,'' Petrino said.

Mitchell hasn't given up on his quarterback hopes. However, he hasn't completely stopped thinking about his future - on or off the football field.

''I have no idea how it plays out,'' Mitchell said. ''I hope I get my number called a lot, I know that. For me, it's just been a good experience even if I don't play a lot of receiver this year. Say I want to be a coach later in life, maybe I can be a better all-around coach later in my career and a better person because of what I've learned from this.''

Tagged: Arkansas, Brandon Mitchell, Tyler Wilson

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