Arkansas redshirt junior Damon “Duwop” Mitchell has moved around quite a bit since his arrival from New Jersey back in 2013, but he hopes he has finally found a permanent home.
That would be at tailback, where he is lining up this spring after previously spending time at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and even taking a few snaps at safety.
Mitchell (6-2, 216, 4.4) had six catches for 84 yards and one touchdown last season and has had 10 carries for 87 yards in his career as a running back or wildcat quarterback.
“I feel why not now for me? I’ve got two years of eligibility left,” Mitchell said after Tuesday’s fifth spring practice. “You guys know I have got a little one (a son back in New Jersey) I’ve got to provide for so it’s make it or break it for me right now.”
Tailback was a place that he landed after having a talk with Razorback head coach Bret Bielema earlier this year.
“I went to Coach B before spring practice started and I asked him, ‘Can I move to running back or safety?” Mitchell said. “I wanted to go out and try to compete for a job. And he told me the best move depth chart wise was running back because we don’t know what some of those guys were going to do.”
Mitchell did get a head start at tailback during last year’s bowl practices with the knowledge that tailbacks Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams were both likely going to prepare for the NFL draft.
Bielema knows that Mitchell - who has averaged almost 11 yards per touch in his career - is blessed with size, speed and playmaking ability.
“Coach B told me coming into this spring that he always liked how the ball looked in my hands and from the people we have on the team he sees me as one of the guys that will take a lot of reps here in the future come game time,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell knows it is now up to him to do something with that opportunity.
“It is pretty much all on my shoulders and based on what I do and show them each and every day,” Mitchell said. “I am going to show them I am ready now that this opportunity has come my way.”
Mitchell showed off his speed and strength last Saturday by ripping off a 32-yard run and bulling over safety Santos Ramirez in the Razorbacks’ short scrimmage.
“It was kind of frustrating the drive before that I saw a cutback lane and I slipped so that had me a little pissed off,” Mitchell said. “That final drive I went out there and lowered my shoulder when I felt I had nowhere else to go.”
That play showed quarterback Austin Allen what Mitchell has to offer.
“I see an explosive athlete that can touch the ball and go 80 (yards) with the ball in his hands,” Allen said. “You saw in the scrimmage that he got two carries and he really took off around the edge.
“He adds a different element to us this year, speed around the corner.”
Mitchell also ripped off a 10-yard run and notes that he is doing his best to listen to Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos.
“I’m learning and trying to develop my running style," Mitchell said. “Coach Enos told me ‘Run North and South and don’t try to hit the home run every play.’
New Arkansas running back coach Reggie Mitchell came in from Kansas and is now in charge of the backfield.
“It’s cool,” the younger Mitchell said. “I don’t want to call him out but I think he’s the oldest coach on the staff. He’s lightened up the room a lot and he learned the offense quicker than anybody else I have seen. I was impressed.”
Mitchell had been a running back from his youth football days until high school.
“Previous to coming to college I had been running back all my life until I switched over to quarterback my sophomore year in high school,” Mitchell said. “I am not foreign to running between the tackles. But it’s a little different. It’s welcoming me back for sure.”
He believes that his time at quarterback and receiver help him at tailback.
“Absolutely,” Mitchell said. “And so has receiver. When you have the most dangerous man as a receiver in the safety rotation, you know where blitzes are coming from so all of it just works within each other and helps me a lot.
Mitchell thinks he has a balanced style.
“I would say a mixed breed, all of it,” Mitchell said. “Fast and having balance but once I learn everything like the back of my hand it’s going to be pretty fun.”