Mitchell Tries To Lead Young Safety Group

Fifth-year senior Brandon Mitchell is back for his final spring at Ohio State and he finds himself as the most experienced safety for the Buckeyes. But he has a battle on his hands as OSU safeties coach Paul Haynes has a handful of young players biding for time. Mitchell discusses his role and he and Haynes talk about the positive competition at the safety spots.

Ohio State safety Brandon Mitchell is back for his fourth spring with the Buckeyes. He knows the ropes, having played in 33 games and starting eight over the past three years for the Buckeyes.

Mitchell stands behind sophomore Nick Patterson on the spring depth chart at free safety. But he knows he has plenty to contribute to the team in 2006, especially as OSU's only experienced returning safety.

"I have to take a leadership role. I look to my left and my right and I don't see Nate (Salley) and Tyler (Everett) and Donte (Whitner), who I have been with for four year," Mitchell said. "It's me learning to be a leader. It's a learning process for everyone.

"My mom said to me the other day that my biological clock is ticking. I look at these guys and say, ‘I hosted you on your visit.' It's really funny to me. But it's fun at the same time. I'm teaching them things about the game.

"I try not to think about this being my last spring. The jersey scrimmage, that was one of my last jersey scrimmages and I'm happy we won. It's fun, though. Any time you can get out there on the green and play it's fun."

Mitchell and the defense pulled off a mild upset in Saturday's jersey scrimmage. The defense, with just one available returning starter from last year, toppled an offense that boasts as many as eight or nine returning starters. The defense won 69-68, forcing five turnovers in the process.

"The biggest thing that surprised me was the number of turnovers we forced in the jersey scrimmage. It was well documented that we weren't that good with turnovers last year. I think we were 114th in the nation in turnover margin. That's been a big emphasis in the spring and that's basically how we won the jersey scrimmage, by getting a bunch of turnovers.

"That scrimmage showed that we have very good players coming in and they are stepping it up and getting ready to play."

Mitchell believes that win will help embolden the young defense that could start as many as five sophomores.

"Saturday was huge," he said. "Especially with a lot of young guys, it gives them confidence early. It gets them ready and get them prepared for this season. It is a big milestone for those guys. Guys know that we had not won a jersey scrimmage in a long time. This helps with their confidence and they know it's not all about the offense this year. The defense can step up and be pretty good as well."

Mitchell, of course, is one of coach Jim Tressel's biggest success stories. He earned his degree in communications in less than four years and is currently enrolled in graduate level classes.

"I'm taking graduate classes in communications and I am studying a lot more film," he said. "The classes are fun. They are very hard and it's a lot more research than I am used to. But it's fun. It was good to graduate early and hopefully I will get out of here by the end of next year and have my master's."

When asked what he plans to do when his football career is over, Mitchell said, "I'm not sure yet, maybe go into broadcasting or journalism. But I also have aspirations of going on to law school."

Reporters asked Mitchell which of the young players were stepping up.

"Everybody is stepping up," he said. "It is a fierce competition. Of course, we're all friends and we all watch film together. But everybody is coming to play. No one sticks out in my mind because everybody is making plays."

Safeties coach Paul Haynes talked about how Mitchell can help the Buckeyes this season.

"He's a guy that can play both, the strong and the free," Haynes said. "He's kind of my fail-safe. If somebody goes down, he can fill in any role. He can be the nickel, the free safety or the strong safety. Him knowing the defense is big for him.

"This is his year. He's the only one in the group as a safety who has experience playing. He's been there. He's been through it. His biggest thing now is production. That's what I get him on. I tell him, ‘You've got to be productive. You can't just be out there getting us lined up. It's about production.' "

Haynes His Way

Haynes discussed what it will take for any of the safeties to see the field.

"Production," he said. "That's the key. Production. Make plays and pass break-ups. As defensive backs, we're in the business of pass break-ups and interceptions. No one ever got drafted as a DB making a thousand tackles.

"They're real green, but they're hungry. That's a good thing. When you win a lot and you have the same group, everybody talks about how complacent they may get. This group hasn't been on the field. We have competition, which I think is good."

Regarding Patterson, a third-year sophomore, Haynes said he has earned his spot.

"He had a great winter," he said. "He competed. He was always first in line. He communicated well. He hustled. He was a leader. He's been a leader. He's been putting extra time into it. He deserves it. He's big, he's 200 pounds. He can run. He's a legit 4.4. He's aggressive and he's smart. He has all the right tools of a free safety that you want."

At the same time, sophomore Jamario O'Neal seems to hold a slight edge over redshirt freshman Anderson Russell at strong safety.

"Jamario has been playing right," Haynes said. "He's been playing perfect. We just have to get more production out of him. I think he's real comfortable. He's playing right, which he wasn't even doing in bowl practice. He's doing a lot of the right things and exactly what I'm telling him to do.

"(Russell) is coming into his own. He gives us Donte's energy and Donte's speed. He has to keep learning the defense and just keep going in the direction he's going because he plays 100 miles an hour. If he keeps learning the defense, he's going to be all right."

Haynes and the defensive staff were happy to be on the winning side in the jersey scrimmage, which is held twice a year – once in the spring and once in preseason camp. The offense had won four straight jersey scrimmages, dating to the defense's last win in August 2003.

"When you come off the jersey scrimmage – after we had our butts kicked in that the last few times and you finally win it – the main focus is we've got young kids, handle success and get better," Haynes said.

The safeties found themselves on the firing line midway through the scrimmage as starting quarterback Troy Smith threw a perfect 14-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Gonzalez. The throw went over O'Neal, although Haynes said Gonzalez caught it in Patterson's area.

"That was Nick Patterson," Haynes said. "(O'Neal) had nothing to do with it. Troy looked to that side and Nick took a chance and it was the wrong chance to take."


 

 



Buckeye Sports Top Stories

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\r\n
\r\n \r\n","mobileBody":"Ohio State safety Brandon Mitchell is back for his fourth spring with the Buckeyes. He knows the ropes, having played in 33 games and starting eight over the past three years for the Buckeyes.

Mitchell stands behind sophomore Nick Patterson on the spring depth chart at free safety. But he knows he has plenty to contribute to the team in 2006, especially as OSU's only experienced returning safety.

\"I have to take a leadership role. I look to my left and my right and I don't see Nate (Salley) and Tyler (Everett) and Donte (Whitner), who I have been with for four year,\" Mitchell said. \"It's me learning to be a leader. It's a learning process for everyone.

\"My mom said to me the other day that my biological clock is ticking. I look at these guys and say, ‘I hosted you on your visit.' It's really funny to me. But it's fun at the same time. I'm teaching them things about the game.

\"I try not to think about this being my last spring. The jersey scrimmage, that was one of my last jersey scrimmages and I'm happy we won. It's fun, though. Any time you can get out there on the green and play it's fun.\"

Mitchell and the defense pulled off a mild upset in Saturday's jersey scrimmage. The defense, with just one available returning starter from last year, toppled an offense that boasts as many as eight or nine returning starters. The defense won 69-68, forcing five turnovers in the process.

\"The biggest thing that surprised me was the number of turnovers we forced in the jersey scrimmage. It was well documented that we weren't that good with turnovers last year. I think we were 114th in the nation in turnover margin. That's been a big emphasis in the spring and that's basically how we won the jersey scrimmage, by getting a bunch of turnovers.

\"That scrimmage showed that we have very good players coming in and they are stepping it up and getting ready to play.\"

Mitchell believes that win will help embolden the young defense that could start as many as five sophomores.

\"Saturday was huge,\" he said. \"Especially with a lot of young guys, it gives them confidence early. It gets them ready and get them prepared for this season. It is a big milestone for those guys. Guys know that we had not won a jersey scrimmage in a long time. This helps with their confidence and they know it's not all about the offense this year. The defense can step up and be pretty good as well.\"

Mitchell, of course, is one of coach Jim Tressel's biggest success stories. He earned his degree in communications in less than four years and is currently enrolled in graduate level classes.

\"I'm taking graduate classes in communications and I am studying a lot more film,\" he said. \"The classes are fun. They are very hard and it's a lot more research than I am used to. But it's fun. It was good to graduate early and hopefully I will get out of here by the end of next year and have my master's.\"

When asked what he plans to do when his football career is over, Mitchell said, \"I'm not sure yet, maybe go into broadcasting or journalism. But I also have aspirations of going on to law school.\"

Reporters asked Mitchell which of the young players were stepping up.

\"Everybody is stepping up,\" he said. \"It is a fierce competition. Of course, we're all friends and we all watch film together. But everybody is coming to play. No one sticks out in my mind because everybody is making plays.\"

Safeties coach Paul Haynes talked about how Mitchell can help the Buckeyes this season.

\"He's a guy that can play both, the strong and the free,\" Haynes said. \"He's kind of my fail-safe. If somebody goes down, he can fill in any role. He can be the nickel, the free safety or the strong safety. Him knowing the defense is big for him.

\"This is his year. He's the only one in the group as a safety who has experience playing. He's been there. He's been through it. His biggest thing now is production. That's what I get him on. I tell him, ‘You've got to be productive. You can't just be out there getting us lined up. It's about production.' \"

Haynes discussed what it will take for any of the safeties to see the field.

\"Production,\" he said. \"That's the key. Production. Make plays and pass break-ups. As defensive backs, we're in the business of pass break-ups and interceptions. No one ever got drafted as a DB making a thousand tackles.

\"They're real green, but they're hungry. That's a good thing. When you win a lot and you have the same group, everybody talks about how complacent they may get. This group hasn't been on the field. We have competition, which I think is good.\"

Regarding Patterson, a third-year sophomore, Haynes said he has earned his spot.

\"He had a great winter,\" he said. \"He competed. He was always first in line. He communicated well. He hustled. He was a leader. He's been a leader. He's been putting extra time into it. He deserves it. He's big, he's 200 pounds. He can run. He's a legit 4.4. He's aggressive and he's smart. He has all the right tools of a free safety that you want.\"

At the same time, sophomore Jamario O'Neal seems to hold a slight edge over redshirt freshman Anderson Russell at strong safety.

\"Jamario has been playing right,\" Haynes said. \"He's been playing perfect. We just have to get more production out of him. I think he's real comfortable. He's playing right, which he wasn't even doing in bowl practice. He's doing a lot of the right things and exactly what I'm telling him to do.

\"(Russell) is coming into his own. He gives us Donte's energy and Donte's speed. He has to keep learning the defense and just keep going in the direction he's going because he plays 100 miles an hour. If he keeps learning the defense, he's going to be all right.\"

Haynes and the defensive staff were happy to be on the winning side in the jersey scrimmage, which is held twice a year – once in the spring and once in preseason camp. The offense had won four straight jersey scrimmages, dating to the defense's last win in August 2003.

\"When you come off the jersey scrimmage – after we had our butts kicked in that the last few times and you finally win it – the main focus is we've got young kids, handle success and get better,\" Haynes said.

The safeties found themselves on the firing line midway through the scrimmage as starting quarterback Troy Smith threw a perfect 14-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Gonzalez. The throw went over O'Neal, although Haynes said Gonzalez caught it in Patterson's area.

\"That was Nick Patterson,\" Haynes said. \"(O'Neal) had nothing to do with it. Troy looked to that side and Nick took a chance and it was the wrong chance to take.\"

 

 

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