FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Bobby Petrino has made it clear all summer the starting quarterback position is up for grabs at Arkansas.
The Razorbacks football coach insists that's still the case now, even after junior signal-caller Tyler Wilson was selected by his teammates as one of six team captains. Wilson is the presumed favorite ahead of sophomore Brandon Mitchell in the race to replace the departed Ryan Mallett, but Petrino won't name either one the starter until they first earn the job on the practice field.
"They know it's a competition at the quarterback spot," Petrino said. "They know it's a competition at every other spot out there.
"I think Tyler being named captain shows that the players respect his work ethic and how much he's put into the off-season and spring and summer and the leadership he's shown to the other players."
Wilson has the experience on the field after filling in for an injured Mallett at Auburn last season, throwing for 332 yards and four touchdowns. He also has the look of the starter off of it after organizing Arkansas' off-season workouts this summer and clearly the support of his teammates after his selection as a captain.
Mitchell, on the other hand, has shown flashes of stellar play the last two springs for the Razorbacks and has shown the kind of athleticism that could give Southeastern Conference defenses fits.
Running back Knile Davis said Wilson's past performance and his
leadership were what led to his selection as a captain.
"We know what Tyler can do," Davis said. "We jumped behind him in the Auburn game, and we're jumping behind him now because he
was kind of next in line.
"It just shows that we have confidence in Tyler and that he'll have a good season, which I think he will."
Davis makes it sound as though Wilson has already earned the
starting job, despite what Petrino said. His words echo those of
several of his teammates, even if Wilson himself doesn't expect a
starter to be named until a week or two before the Razorbacks open
the season against Missouri State on Sept. 3.
"I think it's still a competition," Wilson said. "Obviously, it's an honor to be named captain and there's a lot of expectations and duties that come along with that.
"But I think every position is up for grabs, and coach Petrino has really harped on that."
Davis did say that even if Wilson is named the starter, Mitchell needs to stay ready to fill in -- just like Wilson filled in for Mallett at Auburn and at home against Mississippi last season.
For his part, Mitchell also talks as though the competition is very much alive. He was excited for Wilson when he was named a captain, but he plans on making his best case on the field in practice -- and taking the competition seriously.
Mitchell said he could have gotten down when Wilson was named
captain or let that shake his confidence, but he decided to let it serve as motivation.
"It just made me want to work even harder and embrace that leadership role even more," Mitchell said.
Both Wilson and Mitchell said their relationship is as good now as when they were competing for the backup role the last two seasons. They also said whoever wins the job will be ready to lead the Razorbacks in the post-Mallett era.
"Knowing he's gone, we both know we're going to play more," Mitchell said. "But at the same time, he helped by taking us under his wing and really embracing us and showing us how to play the game and be a quarterback.
"So, we're both ready."