Since the moment that a four-star tight end out of Big Stone Gap, Va. walked onto Virginia Tech's campus a little less than a year ago, the coaches have spoken adamantly about the impact that he was going to have. Now, after some roster turnover and a big spring, it seems that James Mitchell might be ready to show what all the hype is about.
"There are some guys who have the talent to do a bunch of different things but can't handle it all," said head coach Justin Fuente. "James, he can handle all of it."
It was clear from the grin on Fuente's face as he uttered those words after the spring game that he is fully aware of the potential impact that a player like Mitchell can have.
Even though Mitchell has always had immense talent, the path has not always been there for him to earn a starting job. When he first arrived, Dalton Keene and Chris Cunningham had the starting spots basically locked up, and Drake DeIuliis was presumed to be the first backup.
Yet after Cunningham transferred to Old Dominion and Keene missed the spring due to injury, Mitchell was able to slot in with the first team offense. That gave him some much needed reps during the spring.
Mitchell himself fought through some injury concerns to be able to compete in the spring game. During practice, he said he injured his finger (Justin Fuente said it a broken finger before the game) to the point where it required surgery. Luckily, Mitchell said that the injury did not hinder him too much.
"We wrapped it up...it really didn't affect me that much," said Mitchell after the spring game.
At any rate, he was not going to let what he called a "minor" injury derive him of his big moment.
“I definitely wanted to play, because I’ve been really working hard this spring,” said Mitchell. “I really wanted to play in front of the fans and show how hard I’ve been working.”
During the game, he was able to do just that. His biggest moment was undoubtedly a 28-yard touchdown reception from Ryan Willis. Mitchell went up and high pointed the ball perfectly in the end zone, recording the touchdown grab against the first team defense.
However, while Fuente was definitely happy with that play, he made sure to emphasize that Mitchell can do much more than just catch.
"I'm really anxious to get through the spring, get that finger healed up, have a great summer, enter into fall camp, and see how many places we can put him," Fuente said.
Mitchell said he is not intimated by the things that Fuente is throwing at him, but rather embraces his role as a Swiss Army knife of sorts.
"The more things you can do, the more kind of options you can get on the field," said Mitchell. "So thats kind of something I'm trying to be, a versatile player."
Both Fuente and Mitchell know that there is more work to be done, but both are also excited about what the future will bring.
"He know what he needs to work on to continue to become a better player," said Fuente. "He's not a finished product by any means, but he can do so many things."
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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