The running back position for Arkansas Football has been somewhat weakened due to the departure of both Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. In turn, wide receiver Damon “Duwop” Mitchell has been converted to running back to add depth. This position change is intriguing and makes Hog fans wonder if Mitchell will shine in his new role.
I will be the first to say that rain is not my favorite, especially when it comes down in ocean clusters like recently.
Why is he talking about rain in a football article?
Oh, I will tell you why. Because you see, a cliche me was watching the rain out of my window, and while doing so I pondered about the the 2016 Arkansas football season and the drama that is sure to come with it. With that in mind, I played out the running back situation in my head, ultimately leading me to a single question:
Could Damon Mitchell succeed at the running back position?
Consider this your weekly rain thought.
So who is Damon Mitchell? Most of you know him as “Duwop” or “the guy who keeps changing positions”. While both of those are true, he’s more known by the name “Duwop.” If you would like to know how in the world he got that nickname, this well done article will help you get to know Damon a little better.
But I’ll give you a summary on how Mitchell got here. From Egg Harbor City, NJ, Duwop is the only New Jerseyan on the Arkansas roster. He played at Cedar Creek High School, positioned at both quarterback and safety. As you probably figured, he was a duel threat QB. In fact, he actually recorded more rushing yards (937) than passing yards (859) in his junior season at Cedar Creek. As a senior, his stats improved greatly. While throwing for more than 2,000 yards and rushing for more than 1,000 yards, Mitchell was making a name for himself.
When the college offers rolled in, Duwop set his mind on Fayetteville.
Like high school, Mitchell came into Fayetteville in 2013 as a quarterback. The quarterback role was quickly not the right fit for him as a Razorback. After redshirting for the 2013 season, Mitchell was moved to wide receiver. But that position didn’t line up the playing time. In 2014, Duwop only appeared in four games and never caught a pass.
However, the playing time improved in 2015. Mitchell was actually thrown into the Dan Enos scheme, even allowing some trickery due to his passing ability. That proved helpful in the Auburn game, where Mitchell hit Brandon Allen on a 11 yard pass to get a key first down.
By the end of the 2015 season, Mitchell caught 6 passes for 84 yards and one touchdown.
But how will he contribute at running back? In his first two years playing, we are still not very sure what Duwop has to offer. We also have to wonder if this position change is even going to get him significant playing time.
After Collins’ and Williams’ departure, there has definitely a need for those running back slots to be filled. As of right now, only Kody Walker will be returning healthy come this fall. Sophomore Rawleigh Williams III showed true promise last season before he went down with a neck injury. However, Bielema confirmed that Williams was cleared to play. Whether that means Rawleigh will be 100% for the first game or not is still out in the open. Having Rawleigh in there most likely will determine Duwop’s season.
Then there’s the highly anticipated Devwah Whaley. He comes in with a lot of expectations but no college experience. This adds to the uncertainty in that running back slot. A lot understandably think that Whaley isn’t ready to be the starter, maybe not even a back up yet. If performance becomes an issue for Whaley, we need to have that guy to step in.
What it comes down to is figuring out if Duwop will be that savior, or that cushion, for our backfield. With what little time he’s been able to be on the field, Damon actually has made appearances as the running back. Although the majority of his carries came from the infamous 73-7 win over Nicholls State, it helps to have that experience behind him.
Honestly, I think this was a fantastic position change to make. Thankfully, we are plenty stacked at wide receiver. If we were to move a guy out of that role to help the running backs, Duwop is the guy for the job. He’s a guy who has a feel for those kinds of roles, and has been running the football since high school. Now it’s just a matter of time before we figure out if that change was be worth it.
I will be flip-flopping my opinion on the matter up until Mitchell gets his first carry. So many other factors have to play out as well. Like I said earlier, what will be the biggest impact on Duwop’s season is the health and contribution of Rawleigh Williams. Then there’s other factors like Whaley’s readiness, Kody Walker’s load, and if other backs like Juan Day or Denzel Evans have progressed enough to get on the field more in 2016.
These insecurities for our offense is both terrifying me and getting me excited for football season. Damon Mitchell has to prove himself this year. I hope more than anything that the running back position makes Mitchell a stud for Arkansas. With two years experience in the SEC and on the Arkansas offense, it could very well happen.