State of the Hogs: Duwop Music

The hype was about Dominique Reed on the first day of fall camp. The juco wideout has not disappointed, but Damon "Duwop" Mitchell is the wide receiver making sweet music in the first three days for the Arkansas football team.

The excitement ahead of fall camp for the Arkansas football team was about the newcomer at wide receiver, junior college transfer Dominique Reed. There was hope that the Camden Fairview product could fill the need for a burst at wide receiver for a group full of possession types.

Reed might still be the answer. He could well be the missing ingredient to help open the passing game for quarterback Brandon Allen. The 6-3 speedster can do wonderful things and has not disappointed through three days of fall camp.

But there is another story developing out of the Arkansas wide receivers. Damon "Duwop" Mitchell is finally making some sweet music as more than a wingback to run the jet sweep.

Mitchell dazzled Saturday in a practice Bret Bielema opened to the media earlier in the day. Mitchell, the 6-2, 207-pound sophomore, had the play of the day, a 65-yard touchdown bomb from Allen midway through the practice.

Mitchell came to campus advertised as a dual threat quarterback, but didn't have the passing skills to run the pro offense Bielema prefers. The native of Egg Harbor City, N.J., moved to wide receiver last year but there were some who wondered if it was ever going to work.

Bielema confirmed after practice Saturday that teammates rave about Mitchell now and the wideout has totally bought in to his new position. He looked like he was up on the nuances in this workout. And, it's clear that Allen knows how to find him. The slickness of his footwork is just what the position requires. And, although there was no live tackling to make sure, it's clear that Mitchell has some elusive moves. He looks like an SEC receiver.

"He dropped one late that I got on to him about," Bielema said. "But he's been very good from day one to day three. We moved him up when the guy in front of him stubbed his toe. He took advantage.

"He's a totally different player. He's engaged. The guys talk about him. He had a great summer. He's like a new kid."

Bielema said Mitchell was the guy who was noticed by visitors to their off-season workouts last winter because of his size and the way he cut and moved. He said, "Everyone we had come by always asked, who is No. 7."

I found myself looking at my roster as No. 7 made his cuts on slick routes on Saturday. At least once I was thinking, is that one of the freshmen. I'm still memorizing numbers and they tricked me the first day by handing out a roster with wrong numbers. La'Michael Pettway had switched from 87 to 16. For the record, Pettway has a similar look to Mitchell and appears to be the real deal.

Surely, some of these guys are going to give Allen more than Keon Hatcher to hunt. Hatcher has been his old reliable and has been nothing short of "spectacular" in camp, according to Bielema.

This is not to say that the wide receivers were dominating the defensive backs. That was hardly the case. I came away thinking the defense held the upper hand Saturday, but that's the way it should be on the first day of pads. If ever there is a first day in pads that the offense dominates, there's problems with the football team.

No, I love this defense. I did in the spring and I am more in love after three days of fall camp.

Ryan Pulley is going to provide depth at cornerback. He's got cover skills and can break on the ball. I like Kenderick Jackson and Dre Greenlaw at linebacker among the freshmen.

Freshman Rawleigh Williams has a burst at running back that is needed, but Alex Collins displayed some after burners I wasn't sure he owned last year. Collins has shed about 10 pounds from last year and can hit a gear that is needed in the SEC. On his runs Saturday, Collins didn't let up until he was five yards deep in the inside and then sprinted back to the huddle wanting another carry.

Safety Santos Ramirez is a wreck waiting for a spot to happen. Unfortunately, he made a collision Saturday that earned him some up downs. There are not supposed to be any vicious hits in the secondary in these type of practices.

Ramirez got a visit from Jamichael Winston and D.J. Dean, defensive leaders, on the sideline as he finished the up downs. Winston emphasized that there will be a time for such hits, but not during camp when it could wipe out a needed offensive teammates.

Still, you have to love Ramirez. He closes in a flash. He can cover 20 yards from one hash to the other to greet a running back. He pulled off of hits the rest of the day.

I spent part of the practice with a Danish film crew in town to do a feature on Hjalte Froholdt, the freshman nose tackle. Part of the team had coached Froholdt for several years. He marveled at the facilities and the attention to detail in the coaching. He'd been behind the scenes with defensive line coach Rory Segrest.

The Danish journalists had just been to a couple of NFL camps, the most recent with the Green Bay Packers. They thought the Razorbacks were bigger and looked just as sharp.

Oh, this Arkansas team is not ready for the NFL. But it is ready for the SEC West, even more so as receivers like Damon "Duwop" MItchell make some sweet music.

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