Mitchell takes on role of playmaker

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Although much has been made of the Tar Heels' talented trio of true freshman wide receivers, it's the veteran corps that will be called upon to make the early impact. Sophomore Derrele Mitchell [<i>pictured</i>] displayed a few flashes last year of why he was once one of the most highly touted high school athletes in the state.

He proved himself to be and excellent deep threat. Mitchell had three receptions over 30 yards, including a season-high 42-yard catch in the win at Syracuse, a 38-yard reception against Texas and a 31-yard grab at Florida State.

And though he was considered Carolina's fourth option at wideout, Mitchell managed to lead all UNC's wide receivers with an average of 15.5 yards per catch.

"I've been performing well, but I think I can do even better," Mitchell said following Tuesday's practice.

Mitchell expects more from himself now that he has another year of experience. He said he has become comfortable with the Division I college football environment, and more comfortable with the plays and the offense.

"He's come a long ways since last year," UNC coach John Bunting said. "He has what you call some unlimited potential; he's going to get better and better as he plays."

At the prep level, both at Winston-Salem Reynolds and Hargrave Military Academy, Mitchell could always rely on his athleticism to dominate opponents. But although he had his moments last year, he realizes he still needs to learn the UNC offense and what to do in certain situations.

"That's why we practice all those ‘red zones' and ‘3rd-and-longs,'" Bunting said. "Derelle is getting more and more exposed to those things."

Now with a year behind him, Mitchell is not trying to think his way through the process as much, and can now go out and play the game instinctively.

"He played last year and he now understands more about playing at this level, in the ACC, against more big time cornerbacks," UNC wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer said. "In high school, he was just that much better. Now he's had to work on some technique things, and every day he seems to get better on the smaller details. As you grow older as a player, you start to learn more tricks of the trade. That is where he has picked up the finer things of his game.

"He's a returning guy who has had snaps against Texas and Florida State, so he's not going to come in blind," Brewer said. "That's invaluable experience.

"I actually think he is stronger."

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