Now entering his sophomore season, Mitchell, who has bulked up to 6-foot-3, 277-pounds, will make the transition outside and compete for time at one of the vacant defensive end positions.
"He backed up inside last year and I think over the winter he has become quicker and faster," said Petrino. "He's a little bit bigger then we have had at the position, so if he can continue to improve I think he will make a run at one of those end positions."
Having spent his first two years on campus learning from the likes of NFL-bound lineman Montavious Stanley and Elvis Dumervil, Petrino believes that Mitchell has developed an, 'it's my time' attitude over the course of winter conditioning.
"It's been fun to see guys that believe that it's their time now," said Petrino. "Guys that want to step up and take over the leadership. Like Maurice Mitchell - he's been on the team for the last couple years playing behind Elvis Dumervil and now you see the transition where it's, "okay, it's my time to shine and I'm ready to get going.""
The progress that the former high school linebacker/receiver has made since the Cardinals last took the field in early January has grabbed the attention of his head coach, who said that the sophomore was one to keep an eye on this spring.
"I think you really need to watch Maurice Mitchell," Petrino said on Monday. "I think the strides that he has made physically - I'm very impressed with him."
Be sure to log on to InsideTheVille.com on Wednesday evening for complete coverage of the start of spring practice, which will include an evening chat with Michael McCammon.
The public is welcome to attend all of the Cardinals practices, which will culminate with the April 21 spring game. (More than 500 fans and a number of former players attended the first day of practice last spring.)