In the 2013 class, the state of Texas features an unnaturally large number of large, versatile athletes who project favorably at a number of positions in college.
So while Plano Prestonwood linebacker/defensive end Mike Mitchell will unquestionably be a defender in college, unlike some of his peers who could play on either side of the ball, the 6-4, 220-pounder could play any of the four linebacker positions in college, may have the most upside as a 3-4 outside linebacker, and also has the skillset to play defensive end if he gains the necessary amount of weight (which he has the frame for).
A high school linebacker and tailback who sometimes lines up with his hand on the ground, Mitchell shows a diverse skillset on the field that makes it difficult to project him at a specific position in college -- he could play any of those roles previously mentioned based on team need.
Having reportedly run a laser-timed sub-4.5 40 and recorded a 40-inch vertical leap, Mitchell has freakish athleticism and his speed is evident when covering kicks and catching receivers from behind well down the field. It's truly a sight to see Mitchell at top speed, churning away with his high knees. Based on his film, the reported 40 time could well be accurate.
An invitee to The Opening after a strong performance at the Fort Worth NFTC back in March, Mitchell has a chance to put up a SPARQ rating among the best at the camp, but the most intriguing drill for him could be the shuttle, as his short-area burst doesn't quite match his top-end speed. Having the information about how well he does in that drill could be indicative of his upside at defensive end, where his first several steps would be much more important than his speed at a dead sprint.
Since Mitchell is so strong in the open field, where he can benefit from that top-end speed, his upside at defensive end may not be as high as it is at linebacker, where he has sideline to sideline range and more experience dropping into coverage than most high school players at his position who similarly excel coming downhill and rushing the passer.
However, Mitchell did have 11 sacks as a junior and consistently shows the ability to use his hands to shed blockers at his knees in the running game and the punch to win battles against running backs in pass protection, as well as a little bit of shake as a pass rusher and the ability to run the arc with his speed. In other words, his upside at defensive end is not insignificant, even if it isn't as high as it is at linebacker.
When Mitchell does arrive at a play, he strikes violently, mainly a result of his high-level acceleration. In those situations, he is a wrap-up tackler who only needs to improve on his ability to sink his hips prior to contact. However, he does consistently keep his feet driving when he wraps up to keep opponents from picking up extra yardage after contact.
Mitchell's ability to make plays well down the field speaks to his motor as much as it does to his athleticism. On one play, Mitchell gets knocked down by an offensive lineman, gets up, then tracks down the quarterback near the sideline for the game-clinching stop. On another play, Mitchell was held by an offensive lineman, then tracked him down and blindsided him with a vicious hit. There's plenty of evidence that Mitchell's motor runs hot and that means that even if he's blocked initially, he won't allow himself to stay blocked.
If there's on issue with Mitchell, it's that he sometimes has trouble breaking down in space and re-directing to make plays. It's difficult to tell whether that's a result of some stiffness in his lower body, but it is the only significant debit against him upon evaluation.
Currently holding 14 offers, it's a bit surprising that Mitchell isn't a hotter national prospect since he can fill a team's need at any linebacker position and defensive end. Though Mitchell is a Florida native who grew up a fan of the Gators and does hold an offer from his childhood favorite, there has been increasing speculation that he's interested in staying in the state of Texas, where Baylor, TCU, and Texas A&M may be the favorites, with interest from Texas that could eventually lead to an offer and the Longhorns inserting themselves into the mix.
Wherever Mitchell ends up, he'll provide a special blend of athleticism with scheme versatility constrained only by his defensive coordinator's imagination.
Mike Mitchell Linebacker Nike Camp MVP (via lungshotz)