FAYETTEVILLE — Brandon Mitchell was caught off guard by new coach Bret Bielema’s suggestion that he might see action somewhere other than quarterback following the end of spring practice at Arkansas.
Mitchell won’t have to worry about that possibility anymore: He is one of four Razorbacks who have been granted their release with the intention of transferring, Bielema said Monday.
The others leaving the school are defensive end Austin Flynn, safety Defonta Lowe and running back Keante Minor. Flynn and Lowe didn’t go through spring practice, and Bielema had previously said they would transfer.
Mitchell’s departure, however, leaves an Arkansas team already short on quarterback experience with even less heading into Bielema’s first season after being hired away from Wisconsin in December.
The senior competed with sophomore Brandon Allen throughout the spring, hoping to replace former first-team All-Southeastern Conference performer Tyler Wilson as the starting quarterback. Mitchell struggled to adapt to new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s offense, however, and was listed as the second-team quarterback following the completion of the school’s Red-White game.
Bielema said following the spring that he would consider playing Mitchell at wide receiver, where he played primarily last season in an effort to receive as much playing time as possible with Wilson entrenched as the starter.
That was news to Mitchell, who was clearly agitated by the suggestion of another position following the spring and said he wasn’t giving up hopes of being the starting quarterback.
“With the competition not being over at quarterback, I’m just focused on strictly quarterback,” Mitchell said at the time. “I don’t even want to consider anything else right now. My mind’s on quarterback.”
Mitchell served as Wilson’s backup two seasons ago, finishing 22-of-32 passing for 271 yards in limited action. He moved to receiver last summer, opening the door for Allen to step in as Arkansas’ backup quarterback, and performed well — despite being suspended for four games last season for a violation of team rules.
The 6-foot-4, 239-pound Mitchell moved back to quarterback after Bielema’s hiring in December, hoping his experience would help him supplant Allen as the starter. However, he struggled initially with the new terminology in Chaney’s offense as well as with interceptions — throwing one in the red zone during the Razorbacks spring game.
Bielema said in a statement that Mitchell is on track to earn his degree this summer and will use the NCAA graduate-transfer exception to play immediately elsewhere this season.
Flynn played sparingly last season for Arkansas before being arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in February. Lowe played in four games and made one tackle last season as a freshman, while Minor saw action primarily on special teams.
“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. “We fully support them and wish them all the best moving forward.”