QB Mitchell Among Four Players Leaving Football Program


FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas senior Brandon Mitchell said he had no interest in playing anything but quarterback after returning to the position this spring.

Now he’s leaving the Razorbacks in search of another opportunity to be a starter.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema announced Monday that Mitchell was among four players who had been granted releases from their scholarships after conducting individual post-spring meetings. He joined receiver/running back Keante Minor, defensive end Austin Flynn and safety Defonta Lowe as players who won’t return.

Flynn and Lowe were no surprise. Neither player was with the team during spring practice and Bielema said last month they would not return. Minor, a junior, had moved from wide receiver to running back this spring with little success.

Mitchell’s departure clearly was the biggest news after he competed with sophomore Brandon Allen for the starting job throughout the spring.

“Through meetings with these student-athletes, a determination was made that it would be mutually beneficial for them to pursue their goals elsewhere,” Bielema said in a news release. “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.”

Mitchell, an Amite, La., native, spent the spring with the second-team offense and was No. 2 on the post-spring depth chart when it was released two weeks ago.

But Bielema said at the time he also planned to have a discussion with Mitchell about whether he could help the Razorbacks in other areas next season.

The idea appeared to catch Mitchell — who played receiver in 2012 — off guard.

“That’s something I haven’t gave any thought at all,” said Mitchell, who was in the room when Bielema addressed the media about the possibility. “It hasn’t been on my mind at all. I’ve just been focusing on playing quarterback. …

“I just want to play quarterback.”

He’ll begin looking for that opportunity elsewhere after receiving his release.

Mitchell completed 25 of 43 passes for 332 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in three seasons as a backup quarterback. He did rush for two touchdowns during his career and enjoyed some success at receiver last season, catching 17 passes for 272 yards in eight games. Mitchell was suspended for four games late in the season because of a violation of team rules.

Mitchell, who also spent parts of two seasons as a member of the Arkansas basketball team, could not be reached for comment Monday. But a post on his Mitchell’s Facebook page said it was a “bittersweet day” and a “tough decision to leave a great organization, school, and family behind and further my academic as well as my football career at another prestigious institution.”

“Again I want to say thank you to all the Razorback Nation for helping me become the young man I am today,” Mitchell also wrote in the post on his Facebook page Monday. “I wish nothing but the best for the University of Arkansas and I appreciate their professionalism throughout this entire process.”

Mitchell’s departure reaffirms Allen is the clear choice as Arkansas’ top quarterback heading into preseason practice.

He worked with the first-team all spring and was applauded for his growth in new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s system after Arkansas’ 15 practices. Allen completed 11 of 16 passes for 158 yards with a touchdown in the Red-White Game.

“Brandon Allen, really from the first week until the game that you saw on (April 20), made progress all the way along,” Bielema said after spring practice. “But just really the last weeks have been exceptional. He’s just continued to make strides.”

Allen spent most of 2012 as Tyler Wilson’s backup, stepping into the spotlight after the starter suffered an early-season concussion. Allen — who got the bulk of his playing time in losses to Louisiana-Monroe and Alabama — completed 21 of 49 passes for 186 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in five games.

But Allen now is the only quarterback on the roster with SEC experience. Junior college transfer A.J. Derby enters the summer as the No. 2 quarterback, while walk-ons Taylor Reed, Davis McElroy and Brian Buehner also are on the roster.

Two incoming freshmen — Austin Allen and Damon Mitchell — are scheduled to arrive as well this summer. The two quarterbacks should get opportunities to compete for playing time immediately when the Razorbacks open preseason camp.