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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Multifaceted Mitchell makes an early impact

    Earl Mitchell grabs a handful of cornerback Matt Fountaines jersey during Arizonas 21-10 loss to Washington on Saturday at Arizona Stadium. Mitchell, who plays full back, H-back, tight end and on special teams, is the Wildcats only true freshman starter and had one catch for 27 yards against the Huskies.
    Earl Mitchell grabs a handful of cornerback Matt Fountaine’s jersey during Arizona’s 21-10 loss to Washington on Saturday at Arizona Stadium. Mitchell, who plays full back, H-back, tight end and on special teams, is the Wildcats’ only true freshman starter and had one catch for 27 yards against the Huskies.

    If there were one word to describe Earl Mitchell, it’d be versatility.

    Then again, there’s also strong, deceptively fast, student of the game, hardest-working guy on the team, and – oh, yeah – “”Secret Weapon.””

    “”The ‘secret weapon’ part of it,”” said Dana Dimel, one of Mitchell’s two position coaches, “”I don’t think our opponents understand to this point what he can bring to the table.””

    The multifaceted Mitchell – who has the ability to play in the offensive backfield as a fullback and on the line as a tight end – showed yet another component to his game Sept. 9 against then-No. 8 Louisiana State when he blocked a punt.

    “”I hadn’t really played special teams that much, and just being on the field is just an experience of a lifetime,”” said Mitchell, Arizona’s only true freshman starter. “”I’m just having fun playing football.””

    But it’s when he lines up at H-Back, essentially a fullback-tight end hybrid, that Mitchell is at his most effective, blending his ability to block and run routes out of the backfield.

    “”Any kind of player that’s versatile like that, then it’s your objective as an offensive coach to find ways to use them within the system,”” said Dimel, who oversees tight ends. “”And as he starts to get more and more of a grasp of the big picture, I think he’s going to be able to do that for us and become a weapon in so many different ways.””

    Added quarterback Willie Tuitama: “”He has two dimensions. With him, he can run and catch.””

    But versatility might not even be the most enviable thing about Mitchell. Around the team, the Houston native is known to be one of the guys who sets the bar when it comes to work ethic.

    “”Even though he’s a freshman, a lot of guys look at him so they can emulate what he does and say, ‘Hey I’d like to work to that level,'”” Dimel said. “”And I think with him, a lot of it’s just intrinsic. It just comes natural for him.””

    After offseason workouts over the summer, Mitchell often asked Tuitama to stay late so he could work on learning the offense and running routes.

    “”The one thing about Earl that a lot of people might not know is that he’s one of the hardest workers on the team,”” Tuitama said. “”That’s something that I saw just right away, that this kid’s going to work hard to do what he needs to do, and so far, it’s shown.””

    Added Dimel: “”The best thing that he brings to the program is his work ethic and his attitude and how physical of a player he is. He’s just really eager to learn and be a good student of the game.””

    It’s that student in Mitchell that will allow his role to expand along with his time in the system.

    “”He’s got deceptive speed. He can be a real viable pass catching threat for us as he matures within the offense,”” Dimel said, “”but right now, we’re using him more as a physical player, more of a tempo-setting type of guy just to come out and smack people around. As he starts to mature and evolve in the offense, he’s going to be a pass catcher for us as well.””

    Though he didn’t start or record a catch in Arizona’s season-opening win over Brigham Young, Mitchell has since registered four catches for 62 yards while starting three games.

    “”It’s been real fun. It’s just making the experience more fun for me, because I never really got the ball in high school,”” Mitchell said. “”Being a part of this offense is making my experience more fun.

    “”I expected to make my contribution to the team,”” he added, “”but, no, not to this extent.””

    Even as his personal statistics begin to blossom, Mitchell said he tries to focus on the less glorious aspects of his game.

    “”I like to block. That’s my main thing,”” he said, “”and I’m just trying to learn this offense so I can maintain my blocking role and make sure that I get that before anything, because we need to establish our running game.

    “”Catching the ball, that’s all good, but we need to run the ball.””

    So can one word really sum up Earl Mitchell? Tuitama thinks he has an answer.

    “”He’s big-time,”” he said, “”and the thing is, he’s only a freshman. He’s still learning as he’s going on.””

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