We continue the Better Know a Buckeye series with its 8th installment in 2018. Here, we profile Teradja Mitchell, a linebacker from Virginia Beach.
- Size: 6-2/232
- Position: LB
- Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA
- School: Bishop Sullivan Catholic
- 247 Composite: ★★★★
- National Ranking: 44
- Position Ranking: 2 (ILB)
- State Ranking: 2 (VA)
- Under Armour All-American
- The Opening Finals
Mitchell's addition to the recruiting class was a pleasant surprise. Ohio State offered him at the end of his freshman year, but so did several other major programs closer to Mitchell's Virginia home. In fact, Mitchell did not hear a lot from Ohio State during his sophomore year as his recruitment focused on schools within his region or in the ACC. However, Mitchell was able to force the issue by tweeting his interest in Ohio State was genuine. This soon whittled his recruitment to two schools: Florida State and Ohio State. Florida State may have been the favorite through most of his recruitment but the Buckeyes got his commitment on June 2, 2017.
I retell this story below. I discuss Mitchell's recruitment, noting how early it started and how Mitchell took the initiative to get back on Ohio State's radar despite not hearing much from the Buckeyes during 2015 and early into 2016. Thereafter, I discuss the reasons why he chose Ohio State over Florida State despite Florida State leading for his services through most of his commitment. I offer a scouting report of a linebacker prospect who is among the best inside linebackers in the country. I conclude that we can expect to see Mitchell on special teams in 2018 and offer some highlight film to watch at the end of the feature.
Ohio State offered Teradja Mitchell early into the process. The May 2015 offer at the end of his freshman year would be the first for most other prospects, even highly ranked prospects. However several major offers beat Ohio State to the punch. Virginia Tech and Clemson offered that January. Florida State offered in February. Miami beat Ohio State to the punch by two weeks. Georgia and Tennessee even followed the next day.
Put in other words, Mitchell was always going to be a hot commodity on the recruiting trail and, for a large chunk of his recruitment, he was even the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in the country.
He's exactly the kind of high-quality prospect Ohio State recruits at linebacker but his recruitment during his sophomore and junior years make it a mild surprise he ultimately signed with Ohio State and did not end up at an ACC school. Ohio State offered early into the process but did not put on a full court press for his services. This left Mitchell a little miffed because his interest was genuine. In a since-deleted tweet from May 2016, Mitchell made his interest clear by tweeting, simply, "I wanna visit Ohio State."
This altered the trajectory of Mitchell's recruitment, which was largely regional. He had visited programs like Florida State, North Carolina, Penn State, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. However, this tweet pulled Ohio State back into the mix. He made his visit to Ohio State to see the game against Michigan in 2016 and left with a strong impression of the program.
“I loved it... I arrived the night before (Friday night). The game atmosphere was crazy, it was one of the loudest games I’ve attended.”
Having visited Florida State, West Virginia, Georgia, Clemson and others, Mitchell said the Ohio State trip compares well to anywhere he’s been.
“(The visit) was definitely one of the best,” he said. “It was everything I thought it would be. It’s a great school.”
This soon led to a narrowed focus of his recruitment early into 2017 when Mitchell announced on Twitter he was down to two schools: Florida State and Ohio State. This was a surprising development for Ohio State fans, who had not seen much of Mitchell's name in Ohio State's recruiting news through 2015 and 2016. Further, Mitchell still seemed like a solid Florida State lean. He had taken numerous visits to Tallahassee by the point he had seen Ohio State once and would even communicate that he was leaning toward Florida State on some of his other unofficial visits elsewhere.
Most crystal ball projections pegged Mitchell to Florida State with that in mind. However, his tweet from May 23 of last year came with an announcement date of June 2. There, Mitchell would make his decision about where he felt best suited on the field and off it.
Teradja Mitchell committed to Ohio State on June 2, 2017 as the 8th member of what would become Ohio State's full 2018 recruiting class. He chose Ohio State over Florida State among a myriad of other offers.
Mitchell was fairly clear in communicating what he wanted from the program he would eventually choose. He wanted to be the best he could be on the field and compete for national championships, which both Florida State and Ohio State could credibly promise. However, he also wanted the best business school he could find among those schools with football programs that could compete for national championships. That gave Ohio State the small edge over Florida State.
The coaching staff's commitment to off-the-field life development (e.g. "Real Life Wednesdays") were also important for Ohio State to offset the departure of Luke Fickell. Fickell's track record developing linebackers was a major reason why Mitchell considered Ohio State. Mitchell ultimately developed a bond with Billy Davis, Fickell's replacement, but the off-the-field life development pitch was a major reason Ohio State was able to wow Mitchell as well as Mitchell's parents.
Mitchell ultimately signed with Ohio State during the early signing period.
WHERE HE EXCELS
Teradja Mitchell was a five-star prospect for most of his recruitment before finishing as a four-star prospect and the No. 2 inside linebacker prospect in his entire class. As such, there's a lot to like.
Mitchell is likely an inside linebacker prospect all the way. Generally, the premium on inside linebackers is less on athleticism and more on instincts and ability to diagnose the offense. This is where Mitchell shines. His head coach in high school raved about his instincts and his intuition for the game. He comes from a good football pedigree. His uncle, Eli Harold, played collegiately at Virginia and currently plays for the 49ers.
In a similar vein, inside linebackers take on more relatively more responsibility in the run game. Frame becomes a higher priority and inside linebackers are privileged relatively less for their ability in space and more for their straight-line quickness and power as well. Mitchell does superb here as well. At 6-2 and 232 pounds, he already has a pro-ready frame that should only improve over the next few years.
This seems like a roundabout way of saying Mitchell isn't an athletic linebacker but that's not the case. His athleticism is fine, great even. His hip swivel is really good as his ability to get sideline to sideline. However, Mitchell's comparative advantage is elsewhere.
MUST WORK ON
Mitchell has good instincts, even in pass coverage. However, his body kind of belies his brain. Watch his highlight film closely when he is in pass coverage. You can tell his eyes see the route and his brain knows where he's supposed to be, but the footwork is a little haphazard. You'll even see it in some of the draw plays. Footwork will become a high priority in the next few seasons.
Mitchell's redshirt question will be as interesting as the redshirt question for Dallas Gant. In Gant's case, I didn't see an immediate path to the linebacker two-deep in 2018 despite Gant's early enrollment but I thought his head-start should parlay to special teams duties. Mitchell is yet to enroll but the middle linebacker two-deep is not as robust as the outside linebacker two-deep. Further, Mitchell should command more reps and get even better than he otherwise would be given Tuf Borland's injury. I'm skeptical this results in an appearance on the linebacker two-deep in 2018 but it should be enough to get on the field on special teams duties.
Here are senior-year highlights of Teradja Mitchell.