It seems crazy to say that Ohio State linebacker Teradja Mitchell is already headed for his junior season with the Buckeyes.
As a true freshman in 2018, he saw time mostly on special teams and never recorded a tackle. Last year, he got more action on defense and finished with 12 tackles and two tackles for loss.
For a player who was talked about on the outside as a possible starter as a true freshman, Mitchell has taken a longer road, but has arrived in the right way.
“This is Ohio State. You can’t really set expectations,” Mitchell said. “When you come here, you come here and grind every day. It’s an every day process, so you’ve just got to compete and your time is going to come. It’s come for everybody. There is testimony to it. Your time is going to come.”
Mitchell spent his sophomore season battling injuries and backing up leading tackler Malik Harrison. He watched how hard Harrison played and led, and learned every day from the Buckeyes’ senior leader last year.
This spring, Mitchell appears to be competing with senior Pete Werner to be the starting Will. It’s a new spot for Werner, but old home for Mitchell.
“I love it,” Mitchell said. “In this defense the Will gets a little more freedom to blitz and stuff like that.”
With how critical the position is overall to the Ohio State defense, that would make Teradja Mitchell a very important component as well.
“He’s critical man. I’ll tell you, Teradja, he’s one of the more talented guys we got,” said linebackers coach Al Washington. “And when pads come on… What he does great, he is incredibly instinctive, but he has contact courage like no other. We call him ‘Bobby Boucher.’ The Waterboy. He’ll roll up and just ‘BAH!’ and that mentality is awesome. That’s the position. He embodies it. And he’s very talented. He’s a very talented player, man. He has great feet.”
Despite the physical skills and the instincts, playing time has been hard to come by. After getting 39 snaps on defense in Ohio State’s first two games last year, injuries and the tougher schedule limited Mitchell to 34 defensive snaps in the final 10 games.
Mitchell understands, however, what it’s going to take to see more action this coming season.
“I think it’s just all mental for me. Being able to execute the play every time,” he said. “Here at Ohio State we’ve got to play at a high level. We’ve got to execute at a championship level as a player. Just the mental aspect.”
For Mitchell, that means living in the film room and becoming what he calls “a master of the film.”
Once the filmwork and the footwork match up, offenses might want to watch out. And that says nothing of the reshaping of his body, the energy he brings to practice every day, the unselfishness in giving up his jersey number (7) to teammate Sevyn Banks. Mitchell has come too far and worked too hard to not be ready for his shot this year, especially with a starting spot open.
“Determined. Determined as ever. Been dreaming about this since I was a little kid. I’m just ready to take advantage of the opportunity,” he said. “Yes, there’s a spot open. You come in here every day and compete and the best man wins. This is Ohio State. We’re always competing. It’s brotherly love. It’s competitive excellence and when your name is called you’ve got to step up to the plate.”
At the moment, Al Washington is pretty happy with what he has seen from Teradja Mitchell. But what he’s been even happier with is the way he has bought in to the culture at Ohio State. Mitchell is preparing to start this year and if he doesn’t, that preparation is still going to get him ready for whatever the season throws at him.
“He had some bad breaks, but he’s shown great heart and work ethic,” Washington said. “He’s had a great offseason. His body weight’s changed. Body composition has changed. He’s got a six pack going. And he’s really bought in. So yeah, I expect we’re going to be a really good team because of him. We need him. We need Teradja.”