Where Will Mitch Mustain Transfer?
The huge news out of Fayetteville, Arkansas and the campus at UA is that quarterback Mitch Mustain, former Parade Magazine Prep Player of the Year, is leaving the Razorbacks football team.
What's so shocking about the move is that Mustain had been lured to Arkansas by some over-the-top recruiting from Razorback Head Coach Houston Nutt. Nutt brought Malzahn into the Arkansas team to run the offense, and also to secure the services of Williams and Mustain. It worked, as Mustain and Williams shockingly signed their letters of intent to play for the Razorbacks, despite numerous offers from more high profile programs.
However, Coach Nutt never ran an offense even close to what Malzahn had run when he was head coach at Springdale, leaving many to believe their relationship was anything but functional. The exit of Malzahn was still shocking, and has led many to believe Nutt and Malzahn may have had a far worse partnership than previously believed. Mustain came into the program hoping to throw the ball much more; he also hoped Malzahn's spread offense would be implemented into the Arkansas regime. However, with two of the most dominating running backs in the nation, Arkansas kept the ball on the ground a huge majority of the time. It doesn't look like it will be getting better for Razorback quarterbacks anytime soon, as both Darren McFadden and Felix Jones return.
So what's next for Mustain? The obvious choice would be Tulsa, where Malzahn was recently hired as assistant head coach. If Malzahn would try a spread offense at Tulsa that Mustain favors, Mustain could well be on his way to Oklahoma. However, the program at Tulsa, with its relatively weak schedule in Conference USA, is a low-profile Division 1 team. Surrounding his hype coming out of high school, with Tennessee, Notre Dame, Arkansas, and Alabama his final four schools of choice, it seems like Mustain will opt to return to a big-time program in a major conference.
Recently, the Oklahoma Sooners have expressed interest and, with Adrian Peterson gone, Mustain will certainly have the opportunity to throw the ball more in two seasons after he is allowed to play again. His competition at Oklahoma, it would seem, will be incoming 4-star recruit Keith Nicol from Lowell High School in Lowell, Michigan. On top of this, Oklahoma has four underclassmen listed at quarterback on their roster, including hyped soon-to-be sophomore Sam Bradford, which could make Mustain's search for a starting job difficult as a Sooner.
However, it is my personal opinion that Mustain will stay in the SEC. Growing up in Arkansas, Mustain was always a fan of the Southeastern Conference, and has expressed in the past he is honored to be playing (or now, have played) for an SEC team. Three of his final four choices were SEC teams and the other, Notre Dame, is an independent; the evidence is there that he wants to play in the conference.
There are two schools one can quickly rule out for Mustain: the University of Georgia and the University of Florida. Georgia has Matt Stafford (Highland Park, TX) who, in his freshman season for the Bulldogs, had his ups and downs yet was able to close the season strongly. On top of Stafford's virtual lock on the starting job in the next three years for Georgia, the Bulldog program will welcome a very dynamic young quarterback from Columbia, Missouri named Logan Gray. If Gray doesn't redshirt, which he almost definitely will, he could potentially add a new element to the Georgia offense with his speed and running ability (think a smaller, less physical Tim Tebow). At the time being, the Bulldogs are set at quarterback.
The reigning national champions from Gainesville, Florida may have a good case for repeating next season. They will need help on defense, with many of their strongest defensive players declaring for the NFL draft early. However, their quarterback position is loaded with talent, led of course by their freshman (now sophomore) sensation, Tim Tebow (Ponte Vedra Beach, FL). Tebow will surely take over the starting spot, and has some believing he will have more success in Urban Meyer's sophisticated offense than Chris Leak did. Joining Tebow at Florida is four-star quarterback John Brantley (Ocala, FL) and five-star quarterback Cameron Newton (Atlanta, GA). Both players come in with a high profile, and expect Brantley to redshirt and Newton to come in on certain down situations. Also, Newton's size and athleticism could make him a candidate to play as a wideout; it will be interesting to see how Meyer plans on using him. However, it is clear that the Gators have just become richer in the QB position and, though Meyer originally wanted Mustain when he was at Springdale High, there is no way Mustain will be wearing the orange and blue.
On the other hand, two teams seem very appealing to Mustain, and both were in his final four original choices: the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, and the University of Tennessee Volunteers.
Alabama is very interesting and the hiring of Nick Saban at head coach, who is a proven winner as he won the 2004 National Championship with LSU, could make Mustain take another look at the facilities in Tuscaloosa. With the sometimes-shaky John Parker Wilson (Birmingham, AL) entering his junior season, it would seem that, as Wilson becomes a senior when Mustain is cleared to play, Mustain could potentially challenge Wilson for the starting job. It will be interesting to see if Saban pushes for Mustain, as the Alabama quarterback position was certainly not one of the stronger points on a struggling Crimson Tide team in 2006.
Far and away the most interesting choice for Mustain would be the University of Tennessee Volunteers. Mustain was very close to wearing the Tennessee orange originally, but decided to follow his high school coach to UA and stay in-state. However, with hot-head Erik Ainge (Hillsboro, OR) graduating after next season, Mustain's future could be with the Volunteers. Of course, one must also throw into the picture the fact that head coach Phillip Fulmer re-hired the famous quarterback coach David Cutcliffe this past season as offensive coordinator. Cutcliffe knows how to get the most of his players, as well as how to turn his quarterbacks into professional prospects. Furthermore, Cutcliffe prefers a passing game, and Mustain seems destined to thrive in a Tennessee uniform under his offense. Mustain's competition in two years will come primarily from Jonathan Crompton (Waynesville, NC), who, at 6-4 and 225 pounds, has a bit more size than Mustain. Another darkhorse candidate for Tennessee's starting job in two years is four-star quarterback BJ Coleman (Chattanooga, TN), who will redshirt in the fall of '07 because of competition with Crompton and Ainge. Coleman has good size, but must shorten his throwing motion for a quicker release. However, it is in my opinion that Mitch Mustain remains more talented than Crompton and Coleman; I'm sure Cutcliffe has been foaming at the mouth since he heard of Mustain's decision to leave Arkansas.
Mustain's future is a bright one, but he must take everything into consideration when deciding on his new school. Though Tulsa remains the early favorite, people must realize Mustain will reach out to those schools who wanted him badly in the first place: Alabama and Tennessee. And it's my opinion, folks, that Mustain will become a Volunteer.
This article was written by Ryan Scordato. Thanks Ryan. Good stuff!! [hope you are right about Mustain going to Tennessee :)]
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