Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Razorbacks scrimmage report:
Bielema urges QB to switch
Arkansas quarterback Damon Mitchell runs back a punt as the Razorbacks run drills before the start of Saturday's football scrimmage at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas redshirt freshman Damon “Duwop” Mitchell might have found himself a new position if he’ll accept a move from quarterback to wide receiver.
Mitchell, 6-2 and 205 pounds, played receiver in Saturday’s scrimmage and turned his lone reception into a 28-yard gain when he broke some tackles, had two carries for 10 yards and returned punts.
“If Duwop will wrap his arms around it, hug it up and kiss it, I think it would work very, very well,” Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema said. “If not, if it’s not going to work, I’ll help him wherever he needs to go or whatever he wants to do.
“I just want him to have success, and this is the part that he has to understand.”
Mitchell, from Egg Harbor City, N.J., signed with Arkansas as a dual-threat quarterback after passing for 2,025 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushing for 1,027 yards and 21 touchdowns a senior at Cedar Creek High School.
Some colleges recruited Mitchell as a safety - which he also played in high school - and Bielema said he discussed moving to defense with Mitchell.
“When I sat down with him I said, ‘Here’s the deal, you can stay at quarterback, you can switch to wide receiver, running back or go to defensive back,’ ” Bielema said. “I told him flat out that, ‘I think the best thing you could do is go to safety. I think you could turn into an incredible defensive back - a great safety just from what I’ve learned over the years of doing it.’ ”
Bielema said wide receiver is probably the easiest transition to a new position for Mitchell, and he worked there on Tuesday.
During Thursday’s practice he worked at quarterback while getting some snaps at receiver.
“Duwop’s kind of been going back and forth,” Bielema said. “To say that he has embraced a position change would probably not be correct.”
Bielema said Mitchell is “very adamant” about playing quarterback and can stay there if that’s his preference. Right now he’d be the fourth-team quarterback.
“I encouraged him to try wide receiver for two weeks and see where it goes,” Bielema said. “We’re just continuing to try to grow his options and see what he wants to do.
“I’ve never been a guy that has made anybody move, has forced it. If they want to do it they can, if they don’t want to, they don’t have to. I always say this - case in point with Duwop - we’re not moving you to fail.
We’re moving you to have success.”
Junior Grady Ollison worked at starting left guard Saturday while redshirt junior Mitch Smothers - who had been at starting left guard - got snaps at first and second-team center.
Coach Bret Bielema said Ollison hadn’t been working with the starters because of “decisions he was making” that displeased the coaching staff.
“We basically called him this morning and I said, ‘If I let you run with the ones are we going to see good Grady or bad Grady?’ ” Bielema said. “He said, ‘You’re going to see good Grady, Coach,’ and I think he played fairly well today.”
Sophomore Cordale Boyd, who had been working at second-team center, worked at second-team left guard.
“I think he’s got to be a utility guy,” Bielema said.
Smothers had some exchange problems with the quarterbacks that resulted in fumbles, but Bielema said he’ll get a chance to compete for the starting center job with senior Luke Charpentier.
“Obviously, whenever you’re switching centers with the No. 1 quarterback, you’re going to have some things happen,” Bielema said of the botched snaps. “So I’m not happy with it, but there’s going to be some issues just because they keep going back and forth.
“They both have some strengths. They both have some weaknesses. We’ll see where we’re at after two more weeks.”
Junior receiver D’Arthur Cowan, who missed several practices to focus on academic work, practiced Saturday and had two catches for 38 yards.
“He earned his way back on the field,” Bret Bielema said. “We meet Monday with a group of people who tell us where he’s at [academically].
If he’s moving forward, we let him practice on Thursday and Saturday.”Fisher transferring
Safety Kelvin Fisher Jr. is graduating in May and will transfer to another school for his final two seasons of eligibility, Bret Bielema said. Fisher played in a combined three games the previous two seasons after he redshirted in 2011.
Bret Bielema said it was “awesome’ having Dave Wannstedt, a former head coach in the NFL with Chicago and Miami and in college at Pittsburgh, observe practices this week and offer his feedback. Wannstedt coached with Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith at Tampa Bay last season.
“He really just had an open key to the program, sat in our staff meetings, offense, defense, positional meetings, practices,” Bielema said of Wannstedt. “We met early on that first day and I gave him about a half a dozen things I’d really like to have some information and feedback on. Anything was welcomed.
“He gave me that and more. Very encouraging things, but also some critical things you need to hear.”
Wannstedt addressed the team Saturday morning and “knocked it out of the ballpark,” Bielema said.
Sports, Pages 31 on 04/13/2014