- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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It’s OK. We can all admit it: We didn’t expect too many snaps for Arkansas quarterback Brandon Mitchell this fall.
Tyler Wilson was the heir to the Ryan Mallett throne and we all assumed he’d be the starter from the beginning. Yes, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino talked a good game about there being a competition between the two during the spring and preseason camp, but we took it as coach-speak and just waited for Wilson to take the overwhelming majority of the snaps for the Hogs to start the year.
Well, Wilson was the starter in the first two games and he has taken the majority of snaps, but it might benefit Arkansas to get Mitchell out on the field even more going forward.
For starters, Wilson isn’t invincible and he proved as much when he left Saturday’s blowout win over New Mexico with concussion-like symptoms. Wilson said he was fine earlier this week and shouldn’t miss Arkansas’ game against Troy Saturday, but anytime you're dealing with a concussion there is some concern.
“I feel fine, really,” Wilson said. “I’m feeling good, had a good day-and-a-half worth of rest so I’m feeling fine and ready to go back and prepare for Troy this week. I really felt fine the whole time even after the touchdown run. I got up fine, celebrated, and was fine going into the locker room. We started kind of going over some stuff during halftime. You get your bell rung sometimes in football. I think that might have been more what happened. Precautionary wise, we just took that approach and I sat out the second half.”
With Wilson sitting out the second half, Mitchell came in and impressed for the second straight week. In the opener, Mitchell was 10-of-11 passing for 104 yards and a touchdown. Against the Lobos, we saw more of what Mitchell can do with his feet as he carried the ball five times for 59 yards and a score. He also threw for 114 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought he did a great job,” Wilson said of Mitchell’s performance last weekend. “Obviously there were a couple of plays there where he had some good runs, he had a pull read late in the game where he ran it in for a touchdown, and made some good throws too. I think he did a great job, and he’s doing a good job.”
Arkansas isn’t short of offensive talent by any means, but having Mitchell on the field adds a dual-threat weapon that helps the Hogs, especially with a running game that is without starter Knile Davis for the season.
The Hogs are averaging 180.5 rushing yards per game, but leading rusher Ronnie Wingo Jr. has just 116 yards on the season. Granted, veteran Dennis Johnson has yet to play, but Arkansas would get a little more variety in the running game with Mitchell getting more snaps.
Arkansas doesn’t have to bring him in on every series, but putting him out there every once in a while will force defenses to think more and change up their plans of attack.
Wilson is obviously more of a passer than a rusher, but with Wilson you don’t know if he’ll throw or run (he’s completed 75 percent of his passes this year). Keeping defenses and defensive coordinators guessing is always a nice advantage for teams. And, hey, line both up in the same formation and you might watch coaches’ heads spin.
Wilson would -- and should -- continue to get the majority of the snaps, but Mitchell would be a nice change-of-pace quarterback for an Arkansas team getting ready for the SEC season. Why not inject another weapon for opposing teams to worry about each week?
1hSam Khan Jr.
1dMax Olson and Jake Trotter