Teradja Mitchell came to Ohio State with All-American accolades and blue chip expectations, but spent most of the 2018 season watching.
Mitchell saw some action as a true freshman in 2018, but it was almost entirely on special teams. Defensive snaps were few and far between for each of the Buckeyes’ three rookie ‘backers, but that is expected to change in 2019.
With two middle linebackers ahead of Mitchell in Tuf Borland and Baron Browning, reps on defense were nearly impossible to find.
The season wasn’t a waste, however, as Mitchell learned as much as he could through watching and mental repetitions. He also tried to make his mark (and leave a few along the way) on special teams. And through it all, he learned that patience is something that everyone must deal with.
“Those guys just taught me how to grind hard when I came in,” Mitchell said following OSU’s conference title win. “It’s going to be gritty and it’s going to be a tough process, but you’ve just got to push through it, and you’re going to be a man in the end. Especially Justin Hilliard, seeing him on special teams as a recruit, just seeing how he handled it, and I’ve definitely followed his example in that.”
Like any player, Mitchell wants to see the field more than he did this season, but he also viewed the role he was given this season with complete respect. Kickoff coverage isn’t all that glamorous, but Mitchell made an impact when he could. That generally involved running full speed into blockers in order to keep them from completing the task they had been given.
“I’m a team player,” Mitchell said. “Coach Meyer instilled that in us. Coming in, you’ve got to play special teams before you play defense. So every opportunity I get, I’m just gonna take advantage of it. That’s why I came here. I’m a team player. I’m going to give it my all for the team no matter what the role is. That’s just how I go after it.”
By showing that willingness to do whatever he is asked, Mitchell got his coaches’ attention. Now with a new linebackers coach and two new defensive coordinators, he’s got to get that attention all over again.
Of course, this is also a clean slate for everybody on the defense. All three Ohio State starting linebackers are returning, but new linebackers coach Al Washington comes to OSU without any preconceived notions about his players.
This is everyone’s second chance to make a first impression, so expect each of the players — including Teradja Mitchell — to take things very seriously.
Mitchell is already aware of what he needs to work on and is anticipating the process.
“Definitely master the defense and know it like the back of my hand,” he said of his 2019 plans. “That’s the goal coming up. Just get ready. I can’t wait. I can’t wait. As soon as we start, I’m ready to go.”
There are a number of unknowns heading into the offseason, but the linebackers have now met with their position coach and workouts have begun.
Spring football gets underway in around 51 days. Mitchell, who got his feet wet in 2018, will soon be able to show more of what he can do, and he doesn’t care where or what it is.
“Whatever he asks me to do I’m going to do it as hard as I can,” Mitchell said. “I’m just going to work hard. Only God can tell.”