Don’t Forget This When Comparing Hogs Recruiting Target Kane Archer with Mitch Mustain

Kane Archer
Credit: Karen Schwartz

I don’t think I ever envisioned driving two-and-a-half hours to write 5,000 words on a 14-year-old Arkansas football player who just completed the eighth grade. Or writing a column about the fact I traveled two-and-a-half hours to write 5,000 words on a 14-year-old, who just completed the eighth grade, but here I am. Monday, we at SBLive published the piece that received buzz nationwide. 

The truth is, Kane Archer isn’t your average 14-year-old on or off the field. He already has 10 scholarship offers, a few from Power 5 schools in the SEC including Arkansas, and he passed for more than 2,000 yards on the undefeated Greenwood ninth grade team last fall as an eighth grader. 

When Archer started gaining scholarship offers over the past year, I took notice. I didn’t remember any in-state player in my 24 years covering Arkansas recruiting and prep sports who had gained that type of acclaim that early. Not former Hog greats Darren McFadden or Matt Jones or Mitch Mustain – the 2005 Parade Player of the Year. No one.

So, I was intrigued. Also very interested to learn Archer played on a national travel youth team based in Kansas City, and that he trained in California. Then I saw his game highlights. They included rolling out one way and throwing across his body, long scampering scrambles and buying time in the pocket before checking down on receivers like Tom Brady – all while only 12. 

That was enough for me to want to delve deep into his journey so far with his father Adam, who revealed he’s spent an estimated $150,000 in a quest to make his son’s Division I and NFL dreams come true. Not to mention the time they’ve spent together in the back yard or in the shed – a makeshift workout facility. 

The novelty of the story is what hooked me. This kid is from Arkansas and is ranked at the No. 1 QB in the 2026 class (Yes, I know that is early), and he already has all those scholarship offers including SEC programs such as the Hogs, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Missouri. Not to mention traditional Big Ten power Michigan.

Kane Archer’s Trajectory in Arkansas Recruiting

It’s the trajectory he is on. The trajectory is to a classic blue-chip Division I, first-round NFL Draft pick. That is coming from the trainers at 3DQB in California, who have seen the transformation of New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson from high school to the NFL and Alabama Heisman trophy winner Bryce Young, who is also expected to be a high NFL Draft pick. They see the same progression.

What the family has done so far is put their son in a position to make a great run. What the story tells is how they have done it. The answer is – done a lot of things that others would consider ‘crazy,’ like traveling over four hours to Kansas City for a youth football practice and returning that night and going to Greenwood’s offseason conditioning at 6 a.m. the next day. Traveling to California to train and not doing anything recreational other than maybe having a good meal. The facility he trains in is in Huntington Beach, Calif., probably just minutes from one of the most famous and beautiful beaches in the country, yet you won’t find Archer there when he’s training. 

In an age where parents are spending more money than ever on travel sports, training and equipment, the process, and the cost of it was interesting, and I knew would be surprising to the reader. The Archers were very open about their experiences, and I appreciated that. 

I knew the biggest question and maybe criticism of the piece would be ‘what if he doesn’t make it?’ ‘Why hype a kid that age?’ Who cares? Of course, a lot can happen in four years, but the here and now is too compelling to ignore. He’s 14, has college coaches drooling over him, and he’s the backup quarterback on one of the top prep football programs in Arkansas. The day of only covering upperclassmen and ignoring young prospects is over. I’ve been writing about sophomores and major college offers in different sports for some time now. Arkansas head baseball coach Dave Van Horn has routinely offered eighth grade players, and there is coverage of it every time. Some of this hype is created by the college coaches, not just the media. It wasn’t always like that, but this is 2022.

Comparing Kane Archer to Mitch Mustain

I knew the other discussion this story would trigger is the comparison to Mitch Mustain. After all, he is the greatest all-time prep quarterback in the high school history of Arkansas football and a member of the Springdale 2005 club that was among the most dominant in the state’s annals.

While Mustain’s prep accomplishments were phenomenal, he is often remembered with a negative connotation because of what happened once he left his hometown, which is unfair. He found himself in the middle of a power struggle between his former high school coach Gus Malzahn, a first-year UA offensive coordinator in 2006, and veteran head coach Houston Nutt.  The result was Mitch Mustain transferring after he went undefeated as a starter and then was benched. His college career ended unceremoniously at USC and was also tainted by arrest.

Many were quick to criticize Mustain for ‘not making it.’ I never covered him at Springdale or on the Arkansas football team, but am one of the few media members who were granted interviews following his career. I also visited with Mitch’s mother, Beck Campbell. My determination after long sit downs with both, others close to the situation and analyzing the coverage of the situation was grown adults let the 18-year-old Mustain down. They forced his hand, and he transferred to a program loaded with talent and his confidence was shattered after not being nurtured the way a rookie QB should have and kept him from competing fully with the stable of talent former Trojans head coach Pete Carroll had. 

Looking forward to the next four years, some will say Archer is not heading to college stardom – but for the same path as Mustain. All of that is unfair to both parties and a sophomoric narrative. Mitch Mustain set the bar for high school quarterbacks in this state, and Archer appears to be primed to challenge that greatness.  It is also a sure bet that he won’t land anywhere close to as dysfunctional as the Arkansas football program was in 2005. 

Greenwood head coach Chris Young said with the young talent that is around Archer could make the final three years of his varsity career exceptional.

There’s that word ‘could’. It could be. At this point it probably should be. What cannot be argued is that at 14, Archer is in rarified air, and that is an exceptional story no matter how the rest of the chapters unfold. 

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