No one was exactly sure what Damon "Duwop" Mitchell's future as a Razorback was after being asked to make the change from quarterback to wide receiver this spring. He wasn't thrilled about the idea at first, taking a few weeks to let the coaching staff know he was down with the move.
Duwop then joined a group this spring that was less than stellar last season, and a passing game that was downright terrible at times, many many times. The move made sense to coaches. Duwop is a phenomenal athlete, and the quarterback competition was Brandon Allen's to lose, really. And with backup spots filled up by younger brother Austin Allen and freshman Rafe Peavey, something needed to be done about Duwop.
And as Arkansas does with great athletes, the coaches debated whether to put him in the back end of the defense to strengthen the secondary or at another big position of need: receiver. Ultimately, Duwop OK'd the move to receiver and eventually saw time during the spring game catching passes.
While his three catches for 27 yards in the spring game might not seem significant, it's a huge positive that he even put forth the effort at the position. I remember sitting next to Doc at the game and him saying "keep throwing the ball to Duwop. Whatever will keep him happy."
Him being happy is the biggest concern, because after all, he didn't come to Arkansas with the expectation of playing any position other than quarterback. And I could only imagine how tough it is to accept that coaches are basically telling you "you're not our guy at QB" after being brought in as one of the top dual-threat QBs in the country out of high school.
But there is a greater need at receiver on this team. Only one returning player had more than 400 receiving yards last season – Hunter Henry. Keon Hatcher seems to the be the go-to receiver as of now after a strong finish to last season, but he still only racked up 346 yards receiving.
Another target for Brandon Allen is much needed. And right now, it's unknown whether JoJo Robinson can come in and make an impact right away; we don't know if Jared Cornelius could do the same. So having Duwop at receiver provides a dynamic playmaking option for now. The more targets Brandon Allen has to throw to, the better.
Could Duwop make a difference from the receiver position next season? Sure he could. At the moment, the receiving core is inexperienced other than Henry and Hatcher. And while Keon Hatcher might be your No. 1 receiver, he's not exactly what you would consider an explosive athlete. Duwop is, and that alone is what makes the transition worthwhile.
Bielema said after the spring game Mitchell was willing to give the position a shot, but there may have been more rumblings of him possibly leaving the program. That I don't know, but apparently he's staying on board for another season, and that's definitely a good thing.
He may have also realized that if he wants a shot at the next level, then it may come as a receiver or defensive back. Bielema said in the middle of spring practice he thinks Duwop could be a star at safety. Could that be in Mitchell's future as well?
We've discussed what kind of impact Mitchell could make at receiver, but what kind of help could he provide in the back end of the defense?
Well, you'd like to believe that, as Bielema implied, he could make an impact just with his God-given talent and ability. He might need more time to work in the secondary as far as learning the ins and outs of the position but he very well could be productive there.
Basically, Duwop is the kind of athlete that could probably make an impact regardless of the position he's put in. Bielema and his coaching staff have talked about getting the team's best players and talent on the field this season (which I don't think is a new concept, but it was thrown around a few times this spring), and I don't think anyone will argue Mitchell is one of the top athletes on the team.
I believe Duwop could make an impact in the fall, whether he's catching passes or defending them. But only time will tell.