Mitchell making strong case for starting at cornerback

2012-08-23T23:40:00Z 2012-08-25T15:47:09Z Mitchell making strong case for starting at cornerbackBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

There was that one time when Josh Mitchell didn’t take his dad’s advice.

“Growing up, he never wanted us to play football,” Mitchell said. “He wanted us to play soccer. He told us (football) would take a toll on our bodies.”

Just a father looking out for his kids. And it seemed sage counsel.

Because young Josh did not, and still doesn't, have the prototypical size of a football player.

He's 5-foot-11 and is listed in the Nebraska football media guide as weighing just 155 pounds, the lightest guy on the roster.

But his dad played football — and pretty well at that. Mario Mitchell was a standout defensive back at San Diego State and got a taste of the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers.

Josh wanted to play the game his father did. So he did.

He was the smallest guy on the field when he started at age 9, just as he’s the smallest now at age 19.

“Always," he said. “Always have been. Always will be.”

A shoulder shrug to that.

“I carry myself with a big man mentality,” he said.

It’s working.

Because the Husker sophomore is very much in the mix for one of the starting cornerback spots for the Sept. 1 opener against Southern Miss.

Six players are at the forefront in the battle for the two corner spots: Mitchell, Andrew Green, Mohammed Seisay, Antonio Bell, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Daniel Davie.

It’s a competition that figures to carry into the season. It's a competition Mitchell is much more equipped to handle now than before.

“My biggest deal is I kind of knew my plays but not well enough,” he said. “And when you go into a game, you've got to be certain on everything. You can’t just know it halfway."

Secondary coach Terry Joseph said Mitchell really locked in this fall. The coach said the corner is “like a jitterbug” out there, using his speed to his advantage, showing quick change of direction and good ball skills.

And defensive coordinator John Papuchis said Mitchell’s small size doesn’t stop him from having a physical presence.

“Josh is really a good tackler. He is slight. He knows that. He’s had to deal with that his whole life as a football player,” Papuchis said. “Because of it, he tackles low and does a good job of taking people’s feet out. That’s the way he has to tackle. He’s not going to be a guy who forms people up. But he does a good job with what he has.”

The Corona, Calif., native seemed to have a breakthrough early last season, when he was inserted into the starting lineup against Washington.

But that was the only game he started. Mitchell moved to a reserve role the rest of the year and didn’t even travel to the bowl game.

He admits he was bummed midway through the season.

“But I fought back.”

And not going on the bowl trip?

“It really just humbled me. It got me getting my priorities straight.”

And Dad?

“That’s my biggest mentor. That’s my best friend.”

They talk nearly every day. Much of the time the discussion isn't even about football.

“We just talk about life. He keeps me level-headed.”

He enjoys his father’s football feedback, even when the critiques are tough.

His dad helped coach him in high school.

“We used to go at it,” Josh said. “It made me stronger.”

Blunt assessments of his play used to frustrate him. They don’t anymore, he says.

He takes his dad’s advice all the time now.

“I just take it and run with it.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

Copyright 2015 JournalStar.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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