Mitchell to DE Makes Sense

Mike Mitchell's move to defensive end has been in the works for a long time.

Mike Mitchell appears to be opening fall camp next week at rush defensive end.

That position still calls for the player to be in a two-point stance on most occasions, but is considered part of the defensive line as far as most of its responsibilities. Senior Pete Robertson, who led the Big 12 in sacks last season with 12, is expected to be the starter at the position.

Mitchell made headlines in the spring of 2014 by announcing his intention to transfer to Texas Tech from Ohio State. The former five-star linebacker recruit out of Plano Prestonwood Christian Academy in North Texas, was forced to sit out last season after his application for a hardship was denied by the NCAA.

The redshirt sophomore was expected by many to man one of the primary linebacker positions for the next three seasons. That may still occur, but for now it looks like the Texas Tech coaching staff wants to see what he can do at end.

The move wasn't a shocker as back in the middle of spring I spoke with both Texas Tech defensive coordinator David Gibbs and linebackers coach Zac Spavital in separate exclusive interviews up at the football facility.

In each conversation Mitchell's development came up and each coach said essentially the same thing. To paraphrase: He's a heck of an athlete who hasn't played a down of football in a real game in years, including none in college.

Gibbs added he was still moving Mitchell around the formation trying to figure out where best to utilize him and take advantage of his speed and hinted rush defensive end may be where he ended up. It makes sense as Mitchell's size at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds combined with blazing speed (was timed at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard-dash at The Opening in 2012) lends a defensive coordinator plenty of options.

Outside of the aforementioned Robertson, the only other proven pass rusher on the roster is senior strongside defensive end Branden Jackson, who tallied 5.5 sacks in 2014. The past two seasons both Robertson and Jackson have rarely left the field.

Gibbs has vowed to rotate at least eight players on the defensive line even if the backups are "just guys". Mitchell joins defensive ends Zach Barnes, Gary Moore, Andre Ross, Talor Nunez and freshman Lonzell Gilmore as players who could possibly provide Robertson and Jackson some rest this season.

Jackson confirmed at last week's Big 12 Media Days in Dallas that Gibbs has made it clear to him he will be given some breaks this season, he will not be relied upon to play entire games again.

All that being said, it would not be surprising if Mitchell was moved back to either the Will or Sam linebacker position at any point, including before the start of the season.

One of Mitchell's biggest strengths coming out of high school which was reiterated when he transferred to Texas Tech by Scout National Recruiting Analyst Greg Powers, was his ability to play multiple positions.

"I think Mike could play in any scheme," Powers said. "I think he could fit in at any program just because he's big and he's super fast. He's a guy who can play inside, but he actually played outside at the (Army) All-American game and proved that he could do that too. He can come in there play inside or outside, it doesn't really matter."

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