Mitchell steps in, steps up

According to LSU head coach Les Miles, Ryan Perrilloux probably figured out by the end of the week that he would be getting the start against Middle Tennessee State.

He took the bulk of the snaps during practice and the fact that Matt Flynn sustained an injury against Virginia Tech in the previous week's game all pointed to the sophomore taking his first snap in Tiger Stadium as a starter.


So, on the eve of that momentous occasion, at a time when you want to shine and hope you don't do anything to disturb the groove your team has so obviously settled into, the last thing you want to happen is to have your All-Southeastern Conference, potential All-America, and future National Football League starting wide receiver go down with an injury.


Unfortunately for Perrilloux, and the Tigers, that's exactly what happened.        


"I really don't know," Brandon LaFell said when asked what happened to Early Doucet. "It was something that happened to him during walkthrough Friday. We just turned around; he looked up; he was on the ground talking about he was hurting. We were trying to find out, but coach pushed us away and told us to not worry about it and let the trainers take care of it, and that was it."


LaFell simply called what happened "bizarre."


For his part, Miles seemed just as perplexed about Doucet's injury as LaFell did following LSU's 44-0 blowout of the Blue Raiders and avoided saying what had happened to him.


Regardless of what happened, however, Doucet's injury left some big cleats to fill, cleats that were filled by a couple of young receivers, most notably Jared Mitchell. Yes, starting LSU Baseball centerfielder Jared Mitchell.


"I think also that when you leave your starting quarterback and maybe your best receiver on the sideline and you play to get them healthy, without them, and offensively other guys step up, it's interesting," Miles said. "When you play at LSU, just because you go on the field with 11 doesn't mean 12, 13, and 14 that are behind you, waiting to get on the field, don't have talent. And so if somebody gets a little nicked, and we want to rest him, we turn to a guy like Jared Mitchell. We turn to a guy like (Demetrius) Byrd, who had to come in and play, who understands the responsibility of the position to play like the guy who was there in front of him, and they work better. We challenged some young guys today to come in and add their talents to the room, to the team. And I believe they performed well."


Through three games, LSU has had three different players serve as the leader of the receiving corps. Against Middle Tennessee State, Mitchell was the one who hauled in the lion's share of receptions for the Tigers. He was also called upon to take over another duty of Doucet's – fielding punts.


"He made some big plays," Miles said of Mitchell. "He caught the ball well. He handled the punts – I didn't like the one punt he handled, but he handled most of the punts well. I thought he stepped up. He was a guy who was looking forward to his turn, his opportunity. He got it and made the best of it today. I think we look forward for playing time for him as we go forward."


The punt Miles referred to came late in the second quarter after the Tigers defense had forced yet another three-and-out. Mitchell muffed the kick, but Ali Highsmith was able to pounce on the ball. Ultimately, the possession ended in a field goal to closeout the first half. That's sort of the way the night began for Mitchell as well.


On LSU's first play from scrimmage, Perrilloux slung a pass to Mitchell that he dropped.


The Tigers quarterback would attempt only one other pass on LSU's opening drive, a dropped ball by Jacob Hester. Mitchell wouldn't be Perrilloux's first target to haul in a reception but, by the end of the night, he had caught six for 82 yards. Although none of them were for scores, Mitchell ultimately proved himself under the lights and provided Perrilloux with one of the things he needed in his first start – a reliable safety net.


"Jared Mitchell stepped up big time," LaFell said. "With Early not being here, he had to step up and get open on the same plays Early's been running. He did just that. He stepped on the field and rolled, because at first I started off slow. I wasn't getting any passes or receiving yards. But him and Demetrius Byrd, they stepped up big time when we needed it. On long third downs they just stepped up and took care of business."


LaFell was thrust into the same sort of limelight in Week 2 of the season against Virginia Tech when the Hokies were giving Doucet a lot of attention. LaFell performed just as admirably, becoming Flynn's go-to target and leading the Tigers receiving corps in receptions in a similar opponent-thrashing.


Heading into last Saturday night's showdown, Mitchell had contributed just one reception for minus one yard this season. During his true freshman season last year, Mitchell's two receptions for 25 yards hardly caused a stir.


"They're always hollering out, ‘Give me one chance. I'm going to make something happen,'" LaFell said of the younger receivers, including Mitchell. "When they got their chance tonight, they did just that."


No one was more grateful probably than Perrilloux.


"Early's a great player, but we had other guys step in," Perrilloux said. "They all prepared all week. Unfortunately Early was injured, but we just came out and prepared and played a little ball."


Mitchell may not be relied upon in such fashion every week, but last Saturday showed one thing – he's most certainly preparing to perform when necessary.

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