FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas football coach Houston Nutt made a couple of surprise announcements following Wednesday’s morning practice inside the Willard and Pat Walker Pavilion.
First Coach Nutt decided to cancel the afternoon practice scheduled for Wednesday so the players could leave town for the Christmas break early. He then announced a starting quarterback for the Capital One Bowl.
Sophomore Casey Dick will start on Jan. 1 against Wisconsin in Orlando, but freshman Mitch Mustain will enter the game for the Razorbacks’ third possession. The play of the two quarterbacks will determine who receives the most snaps against the Badgers.
“Guys we have had an excellent nine practices and we are going to turn them loose a little early,” Nutt said. “We are going to name Casey Dick the starter and Mitch Mustain is going to go in the third series.”
The quarterback battle resumed following the SEC Championship Game and the level of play from both quarterbacks has been impressive during the bowl practices.
“Both of them had great attitudes, both of them worked extremely hard and both of them deserve to play,” Nutt said. “We are going start out with Casey. He will take the first two series and then Mitch (Mustain) will come in for the third series and then we will play it from there.”
Nutt had originally planned to name the starting quarterback once the Hogs arrived in Orlando and began practice there.
“I’ve just seen enough,” Nutt said. “I had every intention of waiting until we get down there, but nothing is probably going to change that after the first practice. Coach Malzahn, Coach Wood and I have seen what we needed to see. The way they have been throwing the ball, the way they have been competing and the attitudes they have, they both deserve to play.”
Dick had started the Razorbacks’ last four games after Mustain went 8-0 as the starter prior to that. Mustain’s improved play during the bowl practices prompted the coaching staffs’ plans to insert him into the game for the third offensive possession against Wisconsin.
“Totally, totally different the last nine practices than it was from the South Carolina game on,” Nutt said referring to Mustain’s play. “You could just tell the way he was throwing, the way he was thinking.”
The competition for the starting quarterback job was tight throughout the bowl workouts.
“It was pretty close,” Nutt said. “If you watched everyday both of them were very good. They did a good job.”
The Hogs are off until they reconvene in Orlando on the evening of Dec. 25. The Razorbacks’ first practice in Orlando will be at 2 p.m. on Dec. 26.