Mustain May Benefit From Erollment Deadline

LITTLE ROCK--Ultimately, the squeeze of an enrollment deadline could open doors for quarterback Mitch Mustain. When the Springdale freshman asked for his release from the Arkansas football team last week, he had 72 hours to find a school. Wisely, he did not get in a rush.

Before the Friday afternoon deadline for the spring semester, he enrolled in classes at Arkansas and now he has months to look around. Although major schools did not flock to his doorstep last week, they could come calling later, particularly after the high school athletes sign up on Feb. 7. At this moment, it's all about the athletes on the line. For instance, both Louisville and Oklahoma issued statements saying they were not interested in Mustain. Louisville originally had a commitment from quarterback Matt Simms, son of former NFL quarterback Phil Simms and younger brother of Chris Simms, who is with Tampa Bay. When Bobby Petrino left Louisville to coach the Atlanta Falcons, Simms reopened the recruiting process. Pursuing Simms, new Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe, recently departed from Tulsa, issued the following: "Due to widespread media speculation, the University of Louisville is not interested in recruiting Mitch Mustain." In a sense, the statement was a good faith bargaining tool. Originally committed to Michigan State, quarterback Keith Nichol switched to Oklahoma last month. Mustain has had some up-close dealings with coaches trying to juggle potential quarterbacks. It was only a year ago that Mustain was prepared to accept an offer from Notre Dame. A few weeks prior to signing day, the Irish gave him an ultimatum. Notre Dame had commitments from Demetrius Jones and Zach Frazer and was working on high school senior-to-be Jimmy Clausen and needed a yes or no from Mustain. "I had planned on taking a visit up there, and without that, I really can't give you a positive answer," Mustain told Notre Dame offensive coordinator Michael Haywood. During the next 24 hours, he re-upped with Arkansas. Although Mustain visited Tulsa last week, he did not sign on with the Golden Hurricane as many expected him to do. He could follow his high school coach, Gus Malzahn, to Tulsa at the end of the school year, but his immediate decision to decline is an indication that they are not linked at the hip. He will miss spring practice, but that is not as damaging as it might first appear because he must redshirt a year at his new school. Mustain can enjoy being a student this spring and then go through fall practice in 2007 and spring practice in 2008 when he decides where he wants to play. Mustain said he would not make a decision until May or June. Texas Tech, Tulsa, and Texas-El Paso were immediate suitors. Other schools are likely to get involved after next month's signing date. After all, we are talking about a young man who was named high school player of the year by USA Today, Parade, and Gatorade. At Arkansas, Mustain completed 69-of-132 for 894 yards. He threw 10 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. For the season, the Razorbacks suffered 18 interceptions against 23 touchdown passes. Nobody in the Southeastern Conference threw as many interceptions as Arkansas even though nine schools attempted more passes. The Razorbacks completed only 51 percent of their passes and only Ole Miss and Mississippi State had a worse percentage. In fact, a half-dozen SEC schools completed at least 60 percent of their passes and two others were above 55.5 percent. If the Razorbacks had been more proficient throwing the ball, the number of attempts would not have been questioned as closely. Completing only 15-of-32 for 136 yards in the Capital One Bowl loss to Wisconsin only magnified the problem. Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media's Arkansas News Bureau. e-mail: hking@arkansasnews.com.

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