SEC: Brandon Mitchell

Arkansas spring wrap

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
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Three things we learned this spring

1. Pick your poison at running back: There wasn’t a better one-two punch in the SEC last year than Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Collins rushed for 1,026 yards as a true freshman while Williams added 900 yards. After the spring, you can add Korliss Marshall to the mix. The sophomore split time at safety and running back last year, but he’s now with the offense full-time and rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries in the spring game.

2. New emphasis on turnovers: Arkansas finished dead last in the SEC last season, forcing just 14 turnovers. When defensive coordinator Chris Ash left for Ohio State, it opened the door for Robb Smith to take over the defense, and he has instilled a new ball-hawking attitude. As a result, four Razorbacks had interceptions in the spring game.

3. Rushing the passer won’t be a problem: Chris Smith and his 8.5 sacks are gone. Veteran defensive tackles Robert Thomas and Byran Jones are gone. But with Trey Flowers and Darius Philon back and the emergence of fellow defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr., who had five sacks in the spring game, the defensive line should once again be a strength for the Razorbacks in 2014.

Three questions for the fall

1. Can Hogs win with Allen under center? Bret Bielema wouldn’t commit to Brandon Allen as his starter before the spring, but with AJ Derby moving to tight end and Damon Mitchell moving to wide receiver, it’s clear that he wants to roll with Allen as the guy. The question now is can the junior quarterback win games? He was 3-7 in games he started last year, and he went 12-of-21 for 108 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the spring game.

2. Who replaces Travis Swanson? It’s never easy to replace a Rimington Award winner and a player who has started the last four years at center. Senior Luke Charpentier was thought to be the heir apparent, but former guard Mitch Smothers saw some time with the ones during the spring and the staff expects junior college transfer Sebastian Tretola to compete once he arrives this summer.

3. When will Bielema’s change be complete? Arkansas is still in the process of moving away from the Bobby Petrino days and becoming a more physical, hit-you-in-the-mouth football team, similar to the teams Bielema coached at Wisconsin. Will we see a significant difference this fall or will it take another year or two before the transformation is complete?

One way-too-early prediction

It’s too early to predict that Arkansas will be a bowl team in 2014, but it’s not too early to say the Razorbacks will upset one of the upper-echelon teams in the SEC West. They welcome Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss to D.W.R Razorback Stadium, play Texas A&M in a neutral-site game and open the season at Auburn in a game that could catch the Tigers off guard.
The SEC welcomed in four new head coaches this spring. There are always awkward moments with new coaching staffs, but this spring saw a lot of positives from the four new faces.

Here's a quick look at how all four have done during their first few months on the job:

Bret Bielema (Arkansas)

The one thing Bielema wanted to instill in his new players was a more physical mentality. This team lost its edge early last season and never regained it. But under new management, Bielema made sure his tough, hard-nosed persona from Wisconsin rubbed off on his players. That seemed to be the case, especially with running back Jonathan Williams, who really toughened up this spring. Another positive from Bielema's arrival has been the increased confidence he's brought with his own bravado he showed at times.

There are still questions with depth, especially at linebacker, and true playmakers need to be found at wide receiver. Bielema also said goodbye to four players after the spring. The biggest loss was backup quarterback Brandon Mitchell, who could have been used in a few different ways in Arkansas' offense. Form an athletic standpoint, Mitchell is a big loss for Bielema. The good news is that he'll have some decent offensive weapons, including running back Alex Collins, to work with from this 2013 class in the fall.

Gus Malzahn (Auburn)

The big thing for Malzahn is that he was already very comfortable with the program after serving as the offensive coordinator under former coach Gene Chizik. But talk about having a lot more on his plate than he wanted during his first spring. Not only was he slowly trying to change the mind-set of a program that really has fallen since its 2010 national championship, he had to deal with allegations over past off-field incidents with that same 2010 team. Instead of making it a bigger deal for his staff and players, Malzahn didn't even bring it up. He said all the right things and made sure his players were focused on field issues, not the media. Major kudos to him for keeping his players on track.

It's obvious that the offensive players are more comfortable with Malzahn's spread, compared to Scot Loeffler's pro-style from 2012, so that was a big lift for this team. Malzahn's next goal is to find his starting quarterback. There are options, but it's really down to Kiehl Frazier, who is very familiar with Malzahn, and Jonathan Wallace. He also needs to find reliable receiving targets to help whichever quarterback emerges this fall.

Mark Stoops (Kentucky)

There certainly is a lot more excitement around Kentucky's program. That became very obvious when a record crowd of 50,831 showed up for the Wildcats' spring game. He really got things going with a strong closing in his first recruiting class and his personality is really rubbing Big Blue Nation the right way.

But Stoops has quite the uphill trek in front of him. While he has a very solid foundation along his defensive line, he's thin at linebacker and in the secondary. He also has to figure out who his quarterback is and where the production will come from at the wide receiver spot. Consistency is still an issue there. The good news is that he does like where his running game is with the return of Raymond Sanders, Dyshawn Mobley and Josh Clemons.

Butch Jones (Tennessee)

Like Stoops, Jones has a bit of a fight in front of him. He has some good experience coming back on defense, but he's thin in the secondary. Still, the front seven looked much more aggressive this spring with the Vols going back to a 4-3 scheme. This group was much more comfortable with the changes made on defense and as whole, this group is trending upward.

Jones' new up-tempo offense could bring some real growing pains to an offense that is breaking in a new quarterback and new receivers. There isn't a lot of experience at all at either position and there were some real shaky moments on offense this spring, especially in the spring game. Having a beastly offensive line back will help.

Jones has made a ton of noise off the field, though. He's recruiting like a madman and has injected some excitement back into this program. I think a lot of people are surprised at how well he's recruited in such a short amount of time, and it could only get better.

Lunchtime links

May, 9, 2013
5/09/13
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Yeah, I might have stayed up all night watching hockey. I'm proud of it.
Arkansas' football roster got a lot lighter Monday.

Four players, including backup quarterback Brandon Mitchell, have decided to transfer, new coach Bret Bielema announced Monday. Defensive end Austin Flynn, safety Defonta Lowe and running back Keante Minor completed the quartet of Razorbacks transfers.

Here's what Bielema said in a statement released through the school:
"After concluding post-spring meetings with every member of our team, Austin Flynn, Defonta Lowe, Keante Minor and Brandon Mitchell have been granted their release from the University of Arkansas football program. Through meetings with these student-athletes, a determination was made that it would be mutually beneficial for them to pursue their goals elsewhere. Brandon is on track to earn his degree this summer and utilize the NCAA graduate transfer exception to play immediately this fall. We fully support them and wish them all the best moving forward.”

Neither Flynn nor Lowe went through spring practice, and Minor spent most of the 2012 season on special teams. But the loss of Mitchell is significant. That leaves the Hogs with even less experience at a position that saw its star (Tyler Wilson) graduate. Mitchell, who lost out to redshirt sophomore Brandon Allen for the starting spot this spring, played wide receiver last year, but was Wilson's backup in 2011. He saw limited action, but threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns.

Mitchell never really seemed comfortable in offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's offense and had an issue with turnovers during the latter part of spring practice. Allen earned the starting spot with his play this spring and it forced Bielema to consider moving Mitchell back to receiver.

Clearly, it wasn't something Mitchell was interested in.

Having Mitchell on the field would have been nice for the Hogs. His 6-foot-4, 239-pound frame and athleticism would have made him a decent option in the passing game. He also could have had a chance in some possible Wildcat formations.

Now, keeping Allen healthy becomes a major priority. He doesn't have to worry about looking over his shoulder any longer, but he has to make sure he continues to develop this fall because this is now officially his team.

Post-spring SEC QB races update

April, 23, 2013
4/23/13
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Spring might be done in the SEC, but there are a handful of teams that still have fun quarterback races that haven't finished.

I mean, it's only the most important position on the field. But history has taught us that having the wrong quarterback lining up for you isn't exactly a recipe for success -- especially in the SEC.

Here's a look at how quarterback races in the SEC look as we leave the spring and head into the offseason:

ARKANSAS

Brandon Allen vs. Brandon Mitchell: After Saturday's spring game, coach Bret Bielema made it sound pretty clear that he's comfortable with the idea of having Allen be his starter. He's the better pure passer and was more consistent this spring. Mitchell is more athletic, and there will be packages for him this fall, but Allen's ability to not turn the ball over as much this spring really helped put him ahead. Edge: Allen

AUBURN

Kiehl Frazier vs. Jonathan Wallace: Both of these quarterbacks fit into Gus Malzahn's spread offense, but everyone is waiting for Frazier to really step up and show that he can be the guy on the Plains. But after both he and Wallace impressed in the spring game and stayed relatively close throughout all of spring, Malzahn isn't ready to name a starter. Frazier has more experience, but Wallace was the starter at the end of last season. This one will go through fall camp. Edge: Frazier

KENTUCKY

Maxwell Smith vs. Jalen Whitlow vs. Patrick Towles: At the beginning of the spring, the thought was that Smith would regain his starting spot after injuries cut his 2012 season short. But Whitlow, a rising sophomore, took full advantage of his reps this spring and was the most impressive quarterback during the spring game. He threw for a spring game-high 193 yards with two touchdowns and appears to have left with a nice lead in this race. There's still time for Smith, who owns the most experience, and Towles to make up ground this fall, but Whitlow did a nice job distancing himself late. Edge: Whitlow

MISSOURI

James Franklin vs. Maty Mauk vs. Corbin Berkstresser: Franklin entered the spring with two years of starting experience, but his injuries and poor play last year created quite the battle for him. Mauk arrived last year with a ton of hype and knows the offense as well as anyone, while Berkstresser played in 10 games last year. The quarterbacks were sharing snaps all spring, but Gary Pinkel kept his thoughts on them very close to the vest. It sounds like no one separated himself during the spring game, but Franklin had the best day. This one will go through fall camp. Edge: Franklin

TENNESSEE

Justin Worley vs. Nathan Peterman: Worley was a little more consistent throughout the spring, but Butch Jones isn't ready to name a starter. He's putting the team in their hands this summer, and that will say a lot about each one's leadership skills once fall rolls around. Worley -- who actually has college experience -- was atop the depth chart all spring and had a more impressive spring game. Worley should enter the fall as the leader and Peterman will have to be more consistent in order to move ahead. Edge: Worley

VANDERBILT

Austyn Carta-Samuels vs. Patton Robinette: Coach James Franklin has a good problem on his hands. While he has said that he's unsure which quarterback has taken the lead, he has two talented and athletic guys to choose from. Carta-Samuels has way more experience and was the leader heading into the spring. He only helped his cause with an impressive spring game. Robinette is probably a little more athletic, but he'll have to work even harder this summer and fall to move ahead of Carta-Samuels. Edge: Carta-Samuels
Now that spring practice is over with in Fayetteville, it sounds like Arkansas coach Bret Bielema feels pretty comfortable about his No. 1 guy at quarterback.

"Brandon Allen, from the first week to the game on Saturday, made progress all the way along," Bielema said Monday. "The last two weeks have been exceptional."

Allen, who will be a redshirt sophomore this fall, was in a very tight competition with rising senior Brandon Mitchell, but appeared to make a sizable leap past Mitchell late in spring. During Saturday's spring game, Allen finished with 158 yards and a touchdown on 11 of 16 passing, while Mitchell was 12-of-17 for 138 yards with a one touchdown and an interception.

It seemed like Allen began the spring with a bit of an edge in the competition. He played in five games last year, starting one. He finished the season with 186 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. Mitchell played in eight games, but attempted only eight passes and primarily played receiver for the Razorbacks, catching 17 passes for 272 yards.

Allen wasn't perfect whenever he was in last year, but he made real strides this spring in the decision-making department. That's what really set Allen apart later in the spring, Bielema said.

"The one thing that we can’t do is we can’t turn the football over," Bielema said. "We can’t create negative plays on our own, and I think Brandon Allen did a better job of that and has progressed in a way to put him in that position.”

Mitchell might have left spring behind Allen in the quarterback race, but he still brings more athleticism to the table. He'll probably still have plenty of opportunities to make plays from the quarterback spot, and could be moved back to receiver or around the field in order to get his agility and speed on offense in some way.

"With Brandon Mitchell at quarterback, he definitely has some special gifts that we can use," Bielema said. "If there’s another role, another position we can use him at, we’ll work together on that.”

Neither player has a tremendous amount of experience, considering Tyler Wilson was on campus, but having two guys who can do different things is a good problem for the Hogs. It should be interesting to see both players on the field at the same time in certain packages this fall.
We are in the final weekend of spring games in the SEC. On Saturday, it all comes to an end so eat it up SEC fans.

Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri and Tennessee will all close out the spring this weekend.

Here's a look at five things to watch this weekend from the final seven spring games:

[+] EnlargeJustin Worley
Wade Rackley/Tennessee AthleticsJustin Worley is one of many quarterbacks fighting for a starting job this spring.
1. Quarterback battles continue: Four of the seven teams playing spring games this weekend have some quarterback controversy to deal with. Brandon Allen appears to have the lead over the more athletic Brandon Mitchell at Arkansas, but seeing both on the field Saturday should be fun. Auburn is wondering if Kiehl Frazier can finally push himself to the top of the depth chart, but he's having to face Jonathan Wallace, who ended last season as the Tigers' starter. Both are more comfortable in Gus Malzahn's spread offense. Tennessee will throw Justin Worley out against Nathan Peterman this weekend. Worley actually has college experience, but this has been a tight race so far this spring. Then, there's Missouri. James Franklin entered spring as the seasoned starter, but redshirt freshman Maty Mauk has impressed the coaches. Franklin's confidence has increased and he isn't dealing with excruciating shoulder pain anymore, but he's now having to fight off the very talented Mauk, who knows the offense as well as anyone. Gary Pinkel has been mum on who is ahead in this race, so expect this to carry over into fall.

2. Receiving help: Mississippi State said goodbye to all of its starting wide receivers before spring arrived. The good news is that the Bulldogs return a veteran quarterback in Tyler Russell, but he has to make sure his less-experienced receivers grow up in a hurry. Saturday, we'll see what sort of progress this group has made during the first 14 practices of the spring. One guy to keep an eye is rising sophomore Joe Morrow. He has the skill to be a big playmaker, but he's still trying to figure things out and needs to have a big day. Juniors Robert Johnson and Jameon Lewis had good springs, especially Johnson, who should end up being the go-to target. Watching this group should be interesting Saturday.

3. Henry's health: Losing Henry Josey last year was a big blow to Missouri's offense. When he was healthy in 2011 he was arguably the Big 12's best running back. But a devastating knee injury cut that season short and left him watching for all of 2012. But his knee is healthy and he's been running with pain or a brace all spring. He's loved taking contact so far, but this will be a chance for him to showcase his improvements to the Mizzou faithful. Keep an eye on the confidence he uses with his runs. After talking to him earlier this week, he sounds like a man on a mission. If he gets back to his old ways this fall, he could be a big-time player in this league.

4. Coming along up front: Alabama might once again be favored to win the national championship this year, but there's still work to be done on an offensive line that lost three starters -- three All-Americans and two projected first round draft picks. While Nick Saban has said that he's happy with the way the line is taking shape, it's going to look a lot different Saturday. Ryan Kelly (center) and Cyrus Kouandjio (left tackle) pretty much had their spots entering the spring, but Alabama's 14 practices produced some excitement at the other positions. It looks like rising junior Austin Shepard has the edge at right tackle, but he's getting pushed by junior college transfer Leon Brown. Anthony Steen is a proven vet, but he's being pushed by fellow senior Kellen Williams.

5. Toomer's last rolling: Following Auburn's spring game, fans will join to roll the live oaks at Toomer's Corner with celebratory toilet paper for one last time. The removal of the historic trees will take place on April 23, so Saturday will serve as a nice farewell for the oaks. Alabama fan Harvey Updyke was sentenced to six months in jail and five years on supervised probation after pleading guilty in the poisoning of the trees following Auburn's 2010 national championship victory over Oregon. The good news is that Auburn's board of trustees approved plans to redevelop the site.

Lunchtime links

March, 27, 2013
3/27/13
12:00
PM ET
We saw one of the best ties in U.S. soccer history last night inside Azteca. First point in Mexico for the Red, White and Blue since 1997!

Opening spring camp: Arkansas

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
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Schedule: The Hogs will open spring practice on Sunday and conclude the spring with their annual Red-White game on April 13 at 3 p.m. ET. The practices will be closed to the public.

What’s new: The question is: What’s not new? Bret Bielema takes over as head coach after leading Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl each of the past three seasons. He brought his defensive coordinator, Chris Ash, with him from Wisconsin. Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge also came with Bielema from Wisconsin. Taver Johnson will coach the cornerbacks after coaching the Arkansas linebackers last season, and former Miami head coach Randy Shannon will coach the Hogs’ linebackers. Jim Chaney, who was at Tennessee the last four seasons, will be the Arkansas offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Sam Pittman followed Chaney from Tennessee and will coach the offensive line. Joel Thomas, previously at Washington, will coach the running backs. Former Arkansas quarterback Barry Lunney, Jr. will coach the tight ends, while Michael Smith comes over from Kansas State to coach the receivers. George McDonald was originally hired to be the Arkansas receivers coach, but left to take the Syracuse offensive coordinator’s job.

On the mend: Fullback Kody Walker, who broke his leg last season, will be limited this spring.

Question marks: Gone are three starters in the offensive line, and that’s an area where the Hogs struggled mightily last season. It’s a big spring for juniors Brey Cook and Mitch Smothers, two in-state products who could be poised to take big steps as every-game starters. Sorting out the receiver position will also be critical. The Hogs have a lot of guys coming back, but they need to find some consistent playmakers with Cobi Hamilton departing. Sophomore Mekale McKay and seniors Julian Horton and Javontee Herndon saw the most action last season. There’s a chance that some of the receivers could switch positions. Depth at linebacker is also a concern. A.J. Turner and Otha Peters both played as true freshmen a year ago and earned Freshman All-SEC honors.

New faces: The Hogs have four junior college newcomers on campus. Cornerback Carroll Washington, safety Tiquention Coleman, offensive lineman Johnathan McClure and linebacker Myke Tavarres are all expected to compete for starting jobs.

Key battle: Fifth-year senior Brandon Mitchell and third-year sophomore Brandon Allen will vie for the starting quarterback job. Mitchell, more of an extend-the-play quarterback, spent last season at receiver. Allen, the son of former Arkansas secondary coach Bobby Allen, was a highly rated pro-style quarterback coming out of high school. He threw 38 touchdown passes and no interceptions as a high school senior.

Breaking out: The strength of the team should be the defensive line with ends Chris Smith and Trey Flowers returning along with tackles Byran Jones and Robert Thomas. But the Arkansas coaches are also excited to see some of the younger defensive lineman this spring. Redshirt freshman end Deatrich Wise, Jr., is up close to 260 pounds and has been impressive in the offseason program. JaMichael Winston and Darius Philon could also make big moves this spring.

Don’t forget about: Senior Kiero Small returns after missing last season with a foot injury. He spent the preseason working some at linebacker, too, but is expected to return full time to fullback and should help the running game. He’s an excellent blocker. Also, cornerback Tevin Mitchel should be healthy and ready to go after having some injury issues last season.

All eyes on: Bielema loves to run the football and made a living at Wisconsin with big, nasty offensive lines and bruising running backs. Chaney has put together excellent passing offenses during his career. It will be interesting to see how their two philosophies mesh and what kind of balance they can generate offensively, particularly with Tyler Wilson gone and a new quarterback taking the reins.
Arkansas coach John L. Smith still doesn't know if suspended wide receiver Brandon Mitchell will play Saturday against Tulsa.

Mitchell was suspended before last week's loss to Ole Miss for a violation of a team rule, and while he has practiced this week, Mitchell could still be held out of this weekend's game. When asked earlier this week if Mitchell's issue had anything to do with his eligibility, Smith wouldn't say.

On Wednesday, Smith only said that he wasn't sure when Mitchell would return and was still looking to find out more about Mitchell's situation.

"We're trying to collect everything. There is not [an update]," Smith said. "Brandon, right now to this point, is still where he was."

Smith said he would try to make some phone calls to get more information on Mitchell's eligibility before Wednesday's practice.

Stifling pass rush sparks Arkansas

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
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Even with a new quarterback, Auburn couldn't manage to find much semblance of an offense in its third SEC loss of the season.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik replaced starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier with backup Clint Moseley at halftime of the Tigers' 24-7 loss to Arkansas on Saturday. Frazier threw an interception and failed to register any points in another abysmal first half for the Auburn offense.

Moseley couldn't manage much better against an unstoppable Razorbacks pass rush, however. Arkansas came into the game allowing 40.6 points per game -- last in the SEC. That average will drop all the way down to 35 points after holding Auburn to one touchdown, largely thanks to a pass rush that generated a whopping eight sacks against a completely overmatched Auburn offensive line.

Even when the Tigers could keep their quarterbacks upright, they still committed five turnovers on the afternoon. Moseley fired two interceptions along with Frazier's one, and the Tigers coughed up a pair of fumbles.

Those horrific stats made a stop-and-start Arkansas performance look masterful by comparison. It looked like the Razorbacks would blow Auburn off the field early when they racked up 224 yards on the way to a 10-0 lead at halftime. But ugly miscues -- such as a missed 26-yard field goal and a muffed third-quarter punt -- allowed the Tigers to hang around and cut the lead as close as 10-7 at the end of the third quarter.

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, who finished the day with 216 yards on 20-of-27 passing, led the Razorbacks into the Auburn red zone on his first drive of the fourth quarter. From there wide receiver Brandon Mitchell fired a 26-yard touchdown pass to fellow wideout Javontee Herndon on a trick play, putting Auburn in what proved to be an inescapable 10-point hole.

Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson carried the bulk of the ground game in place of starter Knile Davis, who did not appear to be injured. Johnson toted the rock 16 times for 70 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His second touchdown of the day put Arkansas up 24-7 with 8:20 to play.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- As expected, senior quarterback Tyler Wilson isn't starting for Arkansas today against Alabama.

After taking a shot to the head that knocked him out of last week's 34-31 loss to Louisiana-Monroe, sources told ESPN.com that Wilson wouldn't play this week. Wilson was listed as questionable all week and Arkansas' staff maintained Friday that Wilson would be a game-time decision. However, he wasn't cleared to practice Thursday.

Wilson dressed and took reps during warmups, but Allen took the first-team offensive reps with the Razorbacks prior to kickoff. Wilson was also named a captain for Saturday's game.

Brandon Mitchell, who moved from quarterback to wide receiver this fall, also took some snaps at quarterback during warmups and could get some time under center as well for the Hogs.

This will be Allen's first-career start. He finished last week's game completing 6-of-20 passes for 85 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Without Wilson, Hogs' task monumental

September, 14, 2012
9/14/12
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video
It hasn’t exactly been a fair fight for any quarterback matching up against Alabama’s defense over the last few years.

But a first-time starter pushed into action with only a week to prepare?

That’s the daunting task that apparently awaits Arkansas’ Brandon Allen and/or Brandon Mitchell.

Arkansas coach John L. Smith said Friday that it would be a game-time decision on starting quarterback Tyler Wilson, but sources told ESPN.com that Wilson wouldn’t play after undergoing further testing Thursday for his concussion.

Even with Wilson in the lineup last season, he took a beating against Alabama’s defense. Last week, Wilson was knocked out of the Louisiana-Monroe game after taking a shot to the head. The Hogs clearly had their issues protecting Wilson against the Warhawks.

Now comes the ultimate test: protecting whoever’s back there for the Hogs against an Alabama defense that disguises blitzes and generates pressure as well as any defense in college football. So far this season, opposing quarterbacks are completing 53.4 percent of their passes against Alabama’s defense with one touchdown and four interceptions. Last season, in 13 games, opposing quarterbacks completed just 49.1 percent of their passes against Alabama’s defense with six touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

Even though Wilson wasn’t sacked last season against Alabama, he was knocked around and continually harassed in the Hogs’ 38-14 loss.

Allen and Mitchell might be new at this, but they know what’s coming Saturday. Dealing with it is the hard part. Defenses in this league have long feasted on inexperienced quarterbacks. It’s just part of the drill.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Allen
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireBrandon Allen will be tossed into the fire this weekend as he faces a vaunted Alabama defense.
Go back to the Florida-LSU game last season when the Tigers got ahold of Florida freshman quarterback Jacoby Brissett and held him to 94 yards passing, two interceptions and a touchdown.

Allen is a redshirt freshman, so he’s at least been around for a year. He was also a remarkably accurate passer in high school.

Mitchell, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior, is the more athletic of the two and a guy the Hogs really like with the ball in his hands. Look for them to have a package ready for him in an effort to help supplement the running game.

Mitchell was Wilson’s backup a year ago, but moved to receiver this season. He’s practiced this week at quarterback.

Without Wilson, it’s unrealistic to think that the Hogs can go out there, throw it around 40-plus times and beat the Crimson Tide.

They’ve got to be able to run the football a little bit to keep Alabama from loading up and coming after the quarterback. In last season’s game, Arkansas was in third-and-10 or longer 11 different times, which is exactly what Alabama does to a team that can’t run the ball. The Hogs finished with 17 rushing yards on 19 carries.

So finding a way to shorten the game, not to mention having some success on first down, will be critical for the Hogs.

That and hoping their defense can keep Alabama from lighting up the scoreboard.

In fact, with so much attention being focused on Arkansas’ quarterback situation now, the truth is that none of it’s going to matter unless the Hogs suddenly find a pulse on defense.

That was the overriding concern in the Arkansas camp before Wilson went down with a head injury, and it’s still the overriding concern.
Even though Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson hasn't been cleared to practice, coach John L. Smith said on Wednesday that he felt better about Wilson's chances of playing against Alabama Saturday.

"I am more optimistic, but that decision has not been made yet and not in my hands," Smith said. "I’m keeping fingers crossed as well."

Wilson suffered a head injury when he was knocked out of Arkansas' 34-31 overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe late in the second quarter. Smith is hoping doctors will clear him to practice either Wednesday or Thursday.

"He was out there yesterday, so maybe he'll able to get out and do some throwing and all of that and be able to go today a little bit," Smith said.

If Wilson can't go, Smith said either Brandon Allen or Brandon Mitchell will take his spot. Allen filled in for Wilson against Louisiana-Monroe, completing 6 of 20 passes for 85 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Mitchell arrived at Arkansas as a quarterback, but has spent the first two games lining up at wide receiver, where he has caught four catches for 122 yards.

Smith said that even if Mitchell does have more responsibility at quarterback this weekend, he'll still get some reps at wide receiver.

"You have to assume that Brandon’s going to be out there a ton," he said.

Smith also said that cornerback Tevin Mitchel is out for the Alabama game after undergoing gall bladder surgery that Smith said was "totally unrelated" to the hit that knocked him out of last Saturday's game.

The plan is to use seniors Kaelon Kelleybrew and Darius Winston to fill Mitchel's spot. If needed, Smith said he might even burn Jared Collins' redshirt if he absolutely has to.

"We’d still like to save a redshirt if you could, but you have to prepare that guy just to make sure you have enough bodies to get you out of a game, should something happen," Smith said.

Player of the Week: SEC

September, 3, 2012
9/03/12
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It was hard to find a better performer in the SEC than Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson this weekend.

He entered the year as arguably the SEC's top quarterback and showed us exactly why when he threw for conference-high 367 yards and three touchdowns in Arkansas' 49-24 win over Jacksonville State. Wilson not only outdid the SEC, but he outdid every other opening-day Arkansas quarterback to come through Fayetteville, as his 367 passing yards set a new school record for passing yards in an opener. The previous high was 318 by Casey Dick against Western Illinois in 2008.

Wilson also tied the Arkansas record for touchdown passes in a season opener, becoming the third Arkansas quarterback to throw for three touchdowns in the first game of the season. He's now fifth on Arkansas’ list for career touchdown passes with 34.

His quarterback rating for the weekend also topped the SEC at 221.2.

Wilson might have been down his three NFL receivers from a year ago, but he did an excellent job of spreading the ball around Saturday. Two of his receiving targets -- wide receiver Brandon Mitchell and tight end Chris Gragg -- both eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark. Gragg caught a game-high seven catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns and Mitchell, who moved from quarterback, caught four passes for a game-high 122 yards.

Wilson has what it takes to be a real Heisman candidate this season and he's off to a great start.

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