Countdown to Kickoff: 78 days
LB Brant Mitchell, Sophomore
Coming out of the Webb School in Knoxville, Tenn. in 2015, Mitchell was ranked as a three-star recruit by 247Sports. He won the Mr. Football award for Tennessee in both his junior and senior seasons in addition to winning three state championships in high school. Mitchell chose the Yellow Jackets over offers from Mississippi State, Louisville and his hometown team, the Tennessee Volunteers.
Moving into a linebacking corps that didn’t have any standout playmakers last year, Mitchell had the opportunity to play as a true freshman. He appeared in all 12 games last season, starting three of them.
Mitchell had a solid year, as far as true freshman seasons go. He recorded 36 tackles, including 2.5 TFL and one sack. Mitchell also picked off two passes and returned one for a touchdown against Virginia Tech.
However, Mitchell’s production will have to increase this season. As has been well-noted, nobody truly knows what to expect from this team, particularly the offense. So much like last season, Tech will have to rely upon their defense to keep them in games.
But with the departures of key playmakers like Adam Gotsis up front and DJ White and Jamal Golden in the secondary, it will be up to guys like Mitchell to step up for this season’s defense.
It is apparent to anyone that watched Mitchell play last season just how physical he is. He excels at getting to gaps and making plays on the ball carrier. And as his two interceptions last season suggest, he is more than capable of dropping into coverage.
If there is one criticism of Mitchell, however, it is that his speed doesn’t translate particularly well to rushing the passer. This could be key for a defense that will need to take advantage of every opportunity to get off the field on third down.
With relative question marks scattered across the defense, especially in the secondary, linebacker play is going to be critical to this defense’s success. It will be up to the likes of Brant Mitchell and PJ Davis to determine what kind of season this Yellow Jackets team will have defensively.
But Mitchell showed last season that he certainly has the potential to make an impact in the ACC. So if he improves upon a skill set that allowed him to be successful as a true freshman, the Jackets will certainly have their defense in good hands.