Getting the Check

Brandon Mitchell can give SEC defenses a curve ball, but that's not all the freshman QB wants to be this season. He's improving on the basic fundamental of playing quarterback in Bobby Petrino's offense, the check system.

Brandon Mitchell knows how Bobby Petrino judges his quarterbacks. It's about the numbers.

"We chart everything," said Mitchell, redshirt freshman from Amite, La. "You come into the meeting room, the numbers are going to be there. The video doesn't lie and neither do the numbers. That's your resume around here."

Everyone knows about percentages, touchdowns and third down conversions. But the numbers Petrino checks on his QBs are down to the minute detail. "Yeah, one of the things we look at each day is how many checks we get right," Mitchell said.

"That's probably the area where you know you are getting better first. If you are getting the checks right in this offense, you are making progress as a quarterback."

So how he's doing?

"Better," he said. "I think it's real progress. Like today, I missed two checks. That's a jump up. In camp, I'd been about five misses out of 20. Today it was a lot better. I think that helps my confidence and makes me know that I'm improving.

"The checks might not be a throw. It might not be anything other than checking to a different play, or a run.

"If you can get that percentage of missed checks down, you can play in this offense."

And the offense is going to roll.

"I think everyone sees our offense and probably judges it by how well we throw or how accurate we are, but the operation is the key," Mitchell said. "It's how you do in your checks."

That's the difference between Mitchell and the other two quarterbacks, Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson.

"I'm getting there," he said. "I'd like to be able to get some plays this year in the Shot or the Pistol, as most call it. I can make some plays running that help the team. But the real goal is to get to the point that I'm consistent in the checks in the offense like Ryan and Tyler. Those guys are real consistent. They don't miss many, especially Ryan.

"I'm learning from them. I see how Ryan conducts himself in the meeting room. He comes in there every day, sits down in front of the video and grades himself very hard. He looks at all the things we do as quarterback and demands a lot in his consistency, checks and accuracy. I'm learning from the way he pushes himself, how he learns and studies his own play. I'm trying to be the same way."

Still, he hopes he does give the team something they can't get with Mallett and Wilson, some quickness with his feet and an ability to stretch the field with a counter run, just as he did in the spring game.

"If I can do that, it changes the way other teams prepare for the offense," Mitchell said. "Think about it, our offense is handful for someone to get ready to play. We have so much. But if we can run out of the Shot, what is that going to do to say Georgia's preparations, or Alabama's? Does that make their defense work a little longer on something other than what Ryan does?

"But the ultimate for me is to keep making strides to becoming that pro quarterback. That's my goal. The Shot is a little wrinkle along the way. I think I have the ability to do that. I am confident that I can get everything we do down." Along the way, he's doing a little coaching. On some days in camp when the veterans have been on the field, he's been in the video room with the freshman wideouts and tight ends.

"I've had veterans help me," Mitchell said. "Ryan and Tyler have been a big help. Me and Jacoby Walker want to give something back to these young guys. These are the guys who we will be throwing to at some point and we want to bring them along as fast as possible.

"It's a lot to learn. But they are sharp and they are picking it up. I want to help them because there is a good chance we are going to need some of them this season."

Walker, injured in the spring game, will take a redshirt after ACL surgery in May. But he's already ahead of schedule. On Wednesday when the newcomers practiced, he was in one of the throwing drills.

"I couldn't believe he's already back out there," Mitchell said. "It hasn't been too long ago since he had his knee fixed and he's way ahead of schedule. I didn't think he would be doing that until maybe another month or two. He's something and he's working so hard."

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