Known mostly for being injured each of the last two seasons at Auburn, Mitchell came into his own last season for Coach Ellis Johnson as a reserve linebacker. His biggest moment came in a win over Arkansas when he made back-to-back stops on the goal line to help the Tigers to a victory.
Now ready to give it his all, the 6-2, 215 Mitchell is focused on improving his skills as a linebacker after playing mostly defensive line throughout his high school career. Working behind Cassanova McKinzy at middle linebacker in the preseason, Mitchell said he’s gotten better as a player and that was his main goal.
“I feel really good about this fall camp even as it’s closing up,” he said. “I think I solidified some areas I have been paying a lot of attention to. I’m ready to contribute to the team as much as possible.
“Mostly my main focus right now would be at the mike position, but I’m interchangeable between the mike and will positions. I’m also focusing on special teams.”
An early enrollee in the spring of 2012, Mitchell had a shoulder problem that required surgery and missed the entire spring that first year. Lingering problems forced a redshirt that first season, but in 2013 he took the field healthy for the first time. That lasted until the SEC Championship Game win over Missouri when he injured his foot. That caused him to once again miss spring practice, something that has been a frustration for Mitchell.
“It’s hard,” he said. “It’s rough bouncing back from injuries and being injury-prone, but at the same time it’s adversity that I have to face. My teammates and the coaching staff and the training staff helped me through it. I have become a lot better player for it.”
Mitchell is one of several players looking for playing time behind starters Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost. Included in that group is freshman Tre Williams. A big-time high school linebacker out of St. Paul’s, Williams has definitely made an impact on Williams already.
“Tre is explosive,” Williams said. “He’s a guy that is always around the ball. He knows how to hit. He has been at the linebacker position for so long that his eyes are natural. He’s going to be a really good player, especially in the SEC.”
Now more confident in what he’s doing on defense, Mitchell is like many of his defensive teammates in that regard. Playing fast on defense means reacting instead of thinking, something that is improving with every passing day dating back to the bowl preparation and the performance against Florida State.
“Overall, we looked back at last season and the success we had against some of the bigger opponents,” Mitchell said. “We feel more confident heading into each of our SEC teams on our schedule because we have now hunkered down the defense. We know everything we have to do. We have goals now and everybody is fighting for a position. The competition is very high. You’ve got to be ready.”
“We’re going to be 100 percent better. We know all the plays now. We have our personnel dwindling down now even though the competition is still high. We have everybody on the same page. That’s something we really didn’t have before and that was because of being in a new situation again. Now everybody is together. We are TNT and ready to take on anybody.”