After all, at that time he was one of the most decorated high school football players in America, a five-star recruit according to one service, and the nation’s No. 2 middle linebacker by Scout’s reckoning. Every football program coveted Mike Mitchell, and Ohio State, the bluest of college football’s bluebloods, eventually won the Mitchell sweepstakes.
But life is anything but predictable, even when your path to athletic superstardom seems assured. Mitchell redshirted at Ohio State in 2013 and sat out the 2014 season after transferring to Tech.
Once in Lubbock, Mitchell flitted about the linebacker corps but was never locked into a particular position. He was then moved to rush defensive end where he’ll back up All-Big 12 performer Pete Robertson, assuming he isn’t moved back to linebacker, which, given the paucity of depth at the position, is no sure thing.
Given the two-year delay in starting his collegiate career, and the game of musical chairs he’s played since coming to Tech, one might expect Mitchell to be a frantic basket-case punching holes in walls at random, and trampling upon every daisy that dares to cross his path.
In point of fact, the opposite is true. Mitchell is so relaxed and laid back he could pass for a DJ on an easy listening station.
With regard to the position changes, Mitchell sees them as no big deal.
“I’m not too overwhelmed,” Mitchell intones. “Just playing the rush, it’s not really that different. When I was playing the outside linebackers, we were just blitzing off the edge, so it’s not really very different. I already know all the pass drops, so coming from the linebacker position, it won’t be too bad.”
Far from being “too bad,” the move to defensive end could actually be a blessing, which doubtless is what defensive coordinator David Gibbs and his staff hoped when they made the move.
“It [the position] doesn’t make too much difference, but I do like coming off the edge,” Mitchell affirms. “I’ve always liked that. Even in high school, just using my speed to get around somebody, being in position to make a lot of sacks. So I like that a whole lot.“
Indeed, if Mitchell can use his speed and quickness to avoid being engulfed by hulking tackles at the line of scrimmage, he could be a quarterback’s worst nightmare. Mitchell has tremendous burst, acceleration and speed, and those traits combined with tremendous agility mean that he will be able to track down even the fastest quarterbacks in the Big 12. And when he arrives at the point of impact, Mitchell does so with a nasty disposition.
As for the layoff of over two years, Mitchell is confident that the rust is almost gone and that the gold is ready to shine through.
“I think really close. And if we get through this camp and I have a real good camp and I stick with it the whole time, then I think that after camp that I should be ready to go,” says Mitchell.
When Mitchell finally gets back to busting heads and making big plays it’s hard to say who will be happier, Red Raider fans or Mitchell himself.