X-man and the X factor

The adjustment from college football to pro football is difficult. The adjustment from defensive end to linebacker is challenging, too. One former Tennessee Vol will try to handle both in the months ahead.

After starting 25 games at defensive end for the Big Orange in 2006 and 2007, Xavier Mitchell is moving to linebacker in an attempt to catch on with the NFL's Cleveland Browns, who recently signed him to a free-agent contract.

Mitchell, a 6-2, 258-pounder from Long Beach, Miss., recorded 109 tackles and 8.5 sacks in his four years at Tennessee, including 51 tackles and 2 sacks as a senior last fall. He lacks the dynamic speed off the edge to be a rush end at the pro level but he might have sufficient quickness to fill a linebacker spot in the Browns' 3-4 alignment.

Cleveland's top 'backers of 2007 were as follows:

Willie McGinest: A 15-year veteran who will turn 37 during the '08 season, he recorded just 30 tackles from his outside spot last season.

Kamerion Wimbley: He registered 51 stops from the outside berth opposite McGinest last fall and appears to be hitting his stride.

D'Qwell Jackson: A rising star at inside linebacker, he led the team with 101 tackles in just his third season as a pro.

Andra Davis: He recorded 67 tackles from the other ILB spot last season in his seventh NFL season.

Leon Williams, a third-year pro who recorded 85 tackles and 4 sacks as a part-time starter a year ago

Antwan Peek, a pass-rush specialist who numbered 4 sacks among his 19 tackles as a sixth-year pro in 2007-08

In addition, the Browns used their fourth-round pick in the recent NFL Draft to select Beau Bell, a linebacker prospect from Nevada-Las Vegas.

Mitchell also will be competing with eight-year veteran Keith Adams, five-year man Shantee Orr, four-year veteran Kris Griffin and four-year veteran David McMillan. The linebacker candidates also include two other rookie free agents – Alex Hall (St. Augustine) and Asa Matthews (Northern Colorado).

Learning a new position will be a difficult task but Mitchell is an unusually bright guy. The fact the Browns have four linebacker spots and are auditioning so many potential backups suggests depth at the position is unsettled. Ex-Vol Xavier Mitchell just might help settle it a bit.

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