Wolfpack's new quarterback brings athleticism, unselfishness

csmith@newsobserver.comMay 21, 2013 

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FAYETTEVILLE, AR - SEPTEMBER 15: Brandon Mitchell #17 of the Arkansas Razorbacks throws a pass during a game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Razorback Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Crimson Tide defeated the Razorbacks 52-0. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

WESLEY HITT — Getty

Former Arkansas quarterback Brandon Mitchell knows what it is like to fight for a starting job.

Mitchell, who told ESPN and the Associated Press on Monday that he is transferring to N.C. State, has been fighting for a starting spot throughout his college career.

With quarterback Tyler Wilson guaranteed to return as a starter last season at Arkansas, Mitchell moved to wide receiver and caught 17 passes for 272 yards.

That type of willingness to change his game to fit the team’s needs is what Mitchell’s high school coach, Alden Foster of Amite (La.) High called his best attribute.

“He’s going to be great for this program,” Foster said Tuesday. “He’s a guy who’s a great athlete and extremely smart, but he wants to win no matter what it takes. We’re talking about a kid who sacrificed his position last year to help the team. That’s just who he is.”

N.C. State declined to confirm the transfer or comment, citing rules restricting the discussion of student athletes still enrolled at another school. Mitchell is on track to earn his degree this summer.

The former three-star recruit was a standout during his senior high school season, earning football scholarship offers from Michigan, Mississippi State, Tulsa and Arkansas.

Mitchell was also a successful basketball player, earning scholarship offers from Division I schools, including Louisiana State. He played guard for the Razorbacks when football season was over.

“He’s always had that athleticism,” Foster said. “He had to make the decision between football and basketball and he just liked football a little bit more. Not many kids get to make that decision and that just shows you how great of an athlete he is.”

When asked to compare Mitchell to another quarterback, Foster named the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick and former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson.

“A lot like Russell’s situation, he has a great opportunity and he can (play) if given the chance,” Foster said. “He can run a 4.5 40 like Colin Kaepernick and can run the spread offense. … I see him being a great asset to this N.C. State program.”

After backing up Ryan Mallet and Wilson for the past three seasons at Arkansas, Mitchell, 6-foot-4 and 239 pounds, was entering his final year of eligibility and again fighting for the starting quarterback job.

Unlike N.C. State’s Mike Glennon, who replaced Wilson as the starter, Mitchell was beaten out at Arkansas by sophomore Brandon Allen.

With the Wolfpack, Mitchell will compete with junior Pete Thomas and sophomore Manny Stocker for the starting job.

Efforts to contact Mitchell were unsuccessful. During an interview with ESPN on Monday, he said he chose N.C. State over Michigan, Alabama-Birmingham and other schools for several reasons.

“I like the culture, coaches, expectations within the program starting all the way at the top,” Mitchell told Joe Schad of ESPN. “And most importantly, chemistry, I felt I built it with players in just three days.”

As for the biggest motivation to join the Wolfpack, Mitchell told ESPN, “Bottom line is I want to win, and I want to win now. They have the best opportunity there for success and just had one missing piece.”

Smith: 919-829-4841; @RCorySmith

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