Tevin Mitchel has seen plenty of video clips from his father’s college and high school days, and even though some of those highlights are more than 25 years old, they’re more than enough to impress a 19-year-old SEC cornerback.
Arkansas freshman Tevin Mitchel was a four-star recruit who was ranked the 19th-best cornerback in the nation by 247Sports for the Class of 2011.
“Man, people weren’t lying when they say he was good,” Mitchel recently said of his father, Eric Mitchel, a Parade All-American quarterback at Pine Bluff High School in 1984 who went on to play at Oklahoma. “That man, he was unbelievable, fast. Man, it was crazy.”
Tevin Mitchel, a true freshman for the Arkansas Razorbacks, has been showing his own speed in fall camp, doing his best to make an immediate contribution and avoid being redshirted.
When the Razorbacks scrimmaged Aug. 11, Mitchel stood out because of his speed and coverage skills, seeming to be all over the field. And since then, the media spotlight has made its way in his direction, even though he’s running behind veterans at his position.
After one practice this week, he spent more than five minutes giving interviews to reporters with voice recorders and cameras pointed in his direction – a fairly long interview by Arkansas’ post-practice standards, especially for a true freshman, and an interview that ended only when a UA sports information employee said there would be no more questions.
Tevin Mitchel seemed to handle the attention much like he’s handled his first Razorbacks fall training camp – with relative ease considering his age (he turned 19 on Aug. 3, the day before fall camp started) and his experience.
With increased media attention comes increased expectations for a guy who’s yet to play a single down of college football, but some of the other players in the defensive backfield think he’ll be better than fine.
“I feel like he can help us a lot this season,” junior cornerback Darius Winston said. “Great athlete, great feet, good speed … He can help us out a lot this year.”
Eric Mitchel was regarded by some as the No. 1 option quarterback in the nation coming out of Pine Bluff about 27 years ago, and college coaches came in droves to the Southeast Arkansas town to recruit him.
He signed with Barry Switzer’s Oklahoma Sooners, turning down a scholarship from then-Razorbacks Coach Ken Hatfield. At Oklahoma, however, Eric Mitchel found himself in the same recruiting class as Jamelle Holiway, the play-making option QB who led the Sooners to the 1985 national title as a true freshman. Getting game snaps at quarterback was a near impossible chore for Mitchel, who began to re-think his decision to leave his home state.
Eric Mitchel, who now works in real estate in the Dallas area, said in a 1998 interview that he tried to transfer to Arkansas after his sophomore season – things just didn’t work out.
“He wishes he would’ve come here,” Tevin Mitchel said. “It’s all good. I’m here, so …”
Eric Mitchel’s son is all Hog, even though he graduated from Mansfield (Texas) Legacy High School. Tevin, who bears a striking resemblance to his father, was born in Little Rock and lived there until he was 14.
“As a kid, I used to go to Pine Bluff every weekend,” he said. “My grandfather, which is my dad’s dad, he used to pick me up and take me to Pine Bluff a lot. You can pretty much say I was born in Little Rock but I kind of grew up in both as a kid.”
By the time he was 18, he was one of the top high school recruits in the nation – a 247Sports four-star player who was ranked the 19th-best cornerback in the nation and the 30th-best player, regardless of position, in the state of Texas.
Adjusting to college
Tevin Mitchel’s fall camp experience hasn’t been without problems. Like many of the rookies, he said the tempo is a lot faster than what he’s used to. He’s also working on his technique and trying to add weight by eating two plates full of food at lunch and dinner.
“In high school you can pretty much do whatever you want, use your athletic ability to get by,” he said. “On this level, it’s a little bit different.”
The 6-foot Mitchel reported to Arkansas in June weighing 169 pounds, a concern that the Razorbacks immediately began addressing. His goal is to make it up to 185 pounds – he’s at 176 or 177 now, he said.
“I don’t want to be that player that redshirts,” Mitchel said. “I’m going to come out here and bust my butt every day and do what I have to do.”
While trying to bulk up, he’s had to adjust his game when defending bigger, stronger receivers by "trying to weave them and get away from them, all the bigger guys, just trying to get to the ball,” Mitchel said.
He’s also been working on his technique, but he said he’s been able to turn to Winston and first-team senior cornerback Isaac Madison for guidance.
“Them two guys have real good techniques. That’s what they’re helping me on now,” Mitchel said. “Every time I do something bad, or think I do something bad, I’ll go to them and ask them, especially Darius Winston and Isaac, I really ask them about it. They know what they’re doing.”
The veteran corners said Mitchel is quick to seek help when he doesn’t understand something. He sits next to them in meeting rooms and “he has a question, he’s not afraid to ask,” Madison said. And Winston said they have been focusing on teaching Mitchel that success in college is about more than just athletic skill.
But they like what Mitchel has shown them so far.
“He’s pretty explosive, and he’s not afraid to talk,” Madison said with a chuckle. “I like that about him.”