Mitchell takes on daunting task with WVU secondary
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 06:03
Through a week of spring ball and only two months on campus, new West Virginia cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell is quickly getting acquainted with his new surroundings. While it will probably take at least through fall camp to make a significant difference defensively, Mitchell has wasted no time getting to know his players and helping Keith Patterson implement new defensive backfield schemes in his 3-4 defense.
"You have to pick and choose what is going to be your foundation; that is what Coach Patterson has geared us toward," Mitchell said. "We’re going to learn a few things schematically, we’re going get tackles for loss, and we will give great energy each day so we can chase the ball. Those have to be the core of what you believe in."
Mitchell arguably has the toughest job of the new assistants – fixing a cornerback group that played a major part in the
downfall of WVU’s 2012 defense. With a group ranking No. 118 nationally in pass defense last season, Mitchell has to start from scratch.
Having spent time as a corners coach at Texas Tech in the Big 12 Conference and defensive coordinator at East Carolina in Conference USA, a pass-happy league in its own right, Mitchell is already drawing from the past.
"We were a 3-4 team at East Carolina and 80 percent of what we do here is what we did at East Carolina," Mitchell said. "I feel like some of the experiences that I had at East Carolina at the last three years hopefully will add to the pool of thoughts in defending teams in the Big 12."
Part of that process is reevaluating talent at the cornerback position. Mitchell alluded that each corner on the spring roster from senior Brodrick Jenkins to University of Miami Transfer Vernon Davis will have an opportunity to prove worthy of playing time.
Clearly, finding out what each player can bring to the table, as well as what each player struggles with, is important to a former corner himself. Having played at BYU and in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys, Mitchell knows how to talk to players when trying to get a point across.
"We need to identify weaknesses before we move forward. They may all come in saying ‘I can do this, this and this,’ but no," Mitchell said. "It’s my job to introduce the player to their weakness, so we can build and create a collective, so we can be competitive on Saturday."
With a preferred fatherly approach to coaching, Mitchell said he feels like he can get through to players even when discussing and teaching kids through something that they may not understand. Pointing to the idea of treating players as if they were one of his own kids, Mitchell knows if that calm approach doesn’t work, he can always use the NFL card.
"Everyone has to have a little swag about him," Mitchell said. "When you say, ‘Well, when I did this against Jerry Rice or Tim Brown,’ they listen just a little closer."
Mitchell will get back searching for starting corners as West Virginia holds its fifth spring practice tomorrow afternoon.