TIREY: Mitchell ready for breakout season

There were a lot of good sights for the University of Kentucky football team when they started spring practice this year. Scott Mitchell may have been the brightest of all.

It was good to have Tommy Cook back for a sixth year. The veteran brings leadership and a toughness to the team they would not have had otherwise. Rafael Little has seemed to step his game up another notch, which is good since the Cats are woefully short on running backs this spring. Fatu Turituri looks to be a actual junior college transfer that will help this team out of the gate, which is a luxury they have not had the past couple of years. But as far as look-tests go, the Wildcat that raised the most eyebrows at the start of spring practice, was tight end Scott Mitchell.

The junior college transfer out of Mt. San Antonio College caused quite a murmur from those watching the practices early. He has added some weight to a frame that was already a classic wide receiver size last year. He was the second leading receiver for the Cats on the 2004 campaign, but Mitchell was slow to start.

Mitchell finally showed fans what he was capable of in the last game of the season against Tennessee. His breakout performance included nine catches for 111 yards. He ended the year with 30 catches for 383 yards and one touchdown. Those are not quite the numbers that would label a junior college transfer a success. But Mitchell took it as a challenge to better himself in the off-season, and if the time spent in the weight room is any indication, fans should look for those Tennessee game like numbers all season in 2005.

How much muscle has Mitchell added in the off-season? "Ten pounds from my playing weight from the end of last season," replied Mitchell. "I'm still adjusting to it, really. I'm thinking about dropping a little bit, but I can't decide. It's still early. But I'm going to try and adjust and see how it goes."

One thing added weight can sometimes affect negatively, is speed. But Mitchell says he hasn't slowed at all. "No, I feel the same as far as running wise. I'm just stronger dealing with defensive backs. I'm just trying to adjust to dealing with the weight."

The biggest disappointment for Mitchell last season was not his individual numbers, rather, the team's number in the "w" column disappointed him the most. "Winning two games and not going to a bowl game. You know, coming from junior college, my goal, for whatever school I went to, was to go to a bowl game. We got a lot of excitement in the atmosphere built up around here and we are going to try and get that accomplished."

The Tennessee game was his big moment last year, and for Mitchell, it was like a light bulb came on for him. "You could say that," said Mitchell. "You know how players like to get into a certain zone and find their groove. I think I finally found that. I think I knew I always had it, I think I just needed a breakout game to prove that to everybody else."

Does that carry over to this year? "Well, it's the same offense, just different terminology. Coach Phillips has some different things he likes to do. It's exciting because we're going to get the chance to catch some balls, get downfield, and score touchdowns. But also, we got guys in the backfield, like Little, Beach, and Davis, that can make real good plays happen. They spread the field out and help everybody out. The more the running game goes, the better the passing game can get. The better the passing game can get, the better the run game goes. It all works hand in hand. Coach Phillips calls the plays to set up certain things in the run game or in the passing game. We all are going to try and make plays and have fun, so everybody can get numbers, pass the ball, and feel good.

Mitchell has no regrets about coming to Kentucky for his final two seasons. "No, not at all," the receiver emphatically denied. "I believe I'm here for a reason. I know about the past of the University of Kentucky. On this team, 2005, I'm trying to make my own little piece of history for the school."

Mitchell is out for the rest of spring after undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia. He should be fully recovered before fall practice begins.

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