One of the toughest losses of the offseason was the USC Trojans losing promising freshman wide receiver Steven Mitchell with torn knee ligaments. But Mitchell figures to recover and be a big part of the USC offense in the upcoming seasons.
We talked with Bishop Alemany assistant coach Michael Wellington, who coached Mitchell as a wide receiver.
1. What are Mitchell's greatest strengths as a wide reciever? What wide receiver routes did Mitchell run the best in high school?
Steven is a very smart player. He understands how defenses work, so it makes it easier for him to get open. He has the idea of slow-playing his routes to make sure that timing isn't disrupted. Meaning a lot of young receivers want to just run their routes, but there is always a strategy that can help you get open easier. He has the idea of working smarter, not harder to the tee.
The best route that Steven ran in High school was what we called a 1-and-up. It is a five yard square out, then he turns up field. Defenders were so afraid of his speed that they would fly with the out, he would turn up, and was always "wide" open. This was what we would call his "Freak" route.
2. Describe Mitchell's development at Bishop Alemany. Did he have any breakout performances?
We all knew once Steven suited up for his first freshman game that he was going to be a great player. The only thing he had to learn was how to trust his speed. As a young player, most kids don't trust their speed, and will make things difficult on themselves by slowing down, cutting back, which slows their momentum. As Jr grew older, he much better at this craft. Once a kid who is faster than 90% of the people on the field realizes this, he will have a lot more huge plays. Jr's junior year was his break out. This is people knew that he would be a highly recruited athlete.
3. Based on what you see out of the USC offense, where do you see Mitchell fitting into those schemes as he grows and develops as a player?
I believe that Jr. will be placed in the slot where he is very comfortable. In my opinion, there is not an outside linebacker, or strong safety in the country that can cover Jr. 1 on 1. There is just no chance. The coaches at SC will realize this early, and place him in places that will allow him to make huge plays.
4. Do you remember his toughest competitors (like marquee cornerbacks in 1-on-1 matchups) that he had to face, and how did Mitchell perform against them?
Annually, we have a pretty tough schedule. Every team we played knew that Jr. was our guy, but yet, no one could stop him. A few of the notable games that come to mind is when he had 9 catches for over 185 yards against Chaminade on their new field; there was the Mater Dei playoff game where he score 2 or 3 times. If the ball is in his hands, hold on, because anything could happen.
5. If you could compare Mitchell to a current NFL or college wide receiver, who would it be and why?
Jr. is actually a mixture of several receivers. He has the route running skill of ex-USC receiver Steve Smith (One of the best route runners I've ever seen). He has the hands of Larry Fitzgerald. I can count on one hand the number of balls I witnessed Jr. drop. His speed is deceptive like Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers. The most important quality in my opinion he has is his humility. He has the humility of (Though not a receiver) Barry Sanders. Jr. Knows that he is a great player, and doesn't need to boast or talk about it. His ability speaks for itself.