Ridge­field’s Mitchell eager to make an im­pact with Huskies

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Sports - By Jim Fuller james. fuller @ hearst­medi­act. com; @ NHRJimFuller

NEW HAVEN — A year ago, Jack­son Mitchell shared the stage with his fu­ture col­lege team­mates Kevon Jones and Travis Jones at the Wal­ter Camp Foot­ball Foun­da­tion Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons. Mitchell re­turned to the Omni Ho­tel as one of the head­lin­ers on the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s All- Con­necti­cut team on Satur­day morn­ing in the fi­nal act of his high school foot­ball ca­reer.

Mitchell, who also earned first team all- state hon­ors from the New Haven Reg­is­ter, Con­necti­cut High School Coaches As­so­ci­a­tion and was the de­fen­sive player of the year on USA To­day’s All- Con­necti­cut squad, would love noth­ing more than to see im­me­di­ate ac­tion as a true fresh­man just like Kevon and Travis Jones did for the Huskies when they com­bined for 98 tack­les in­clud­ing 111⁄ tack

2 les for loss.

“It is al­ways fun when you get an op­por­tu­nity to play early, so if I can line­backer, that would be great but just to be on the field with spe­cial teams and just to help the team win is ex­cit­ing,” Mitchell said.

The op­por­tu­nity for im­me­di­ate play­ing time cer­tainly ex­ists at UConn, a pro­gram com­ing off a night­mar­ish sea­son on de­fense when the Huskies ranked last na­tion­ally in nearly ev­ery ma­jor de­fen­sive cat­e­gory.

San­tana Ster­ling, who led all UConn lineback­ers with 80 tack­les dur­ing the 2018 sea­son, is grad­u­at­ing and up­grad­ing the speed and ath­leti­cism at the line­backer po­si­tion is a pri­or­ity for UConn coach Randy Ed­sall and his staff. The 6- foot- 2, 220- pound Mitchell is a key mem­ber of the in­com­ing fresh­man class who is plan­ning to ar­rive on cam­pus in June.

“This kid re­ally im­pressed us at the sum­mer camp,” Ed­sall said last month when dis­cussing the play­ers who signed with UConn. “This was a young man who im­pressed us from the time he came to the camp. He is just a worker. He is big­ger now, he works. You see that he loves the game, loves to com­pete, a great fam­ily. We are re­ally ex­cited about him, he has a lot of growth po­ten­tial as well.”

Mitchell earned All- State hon­ors as a re­ceiver fol­low­ing his ju­nior sea­son at Ridge­field High School af­ter catch­ing 80 passes for 1,113 yards and 13 touch­downs lead­ing to spec­u­la­tion that he may project to play ei­ther re­ceiver or tight end for the Huskies. While Mitchell led Ridge­field with 36 re­cep­tions as a se­nior, he opened more eyes on the other side of the ball. Mitchell had 91⁄

2 sacks with 51⁄ com­ing in

2 games against Class LL cham­pion Green­wich, Class M cham­pion St. Joseph and fel­low 2018 play­off team Darien.

“I’ve al­ways liked de­fense, I’ve be­come good at of­fense more in high school but I’ve al­ways liked de­fense the most,” Mitchell said.

Six of UConn’s top nine re­turn­ing tack­lers are Con­necti­cut na­tives. Mitchell and Bloom­field na­tive Dil­lon Har­ris, a fel­low line­backer who played at Lack­awanna Col­lege in the last two sea­sons, will have a chance to give the 2019 de- fen­sive squad even more of a lo­cal fla­vor.

“High school is fun but I am ex­cited to get onto a new level, new com­pe­ti­tion,” Mitchell said.

“I talk to them [ the UConn coaches] a lot. When­ever it is an open pe­riod, they will come down to the school and say hi and check up on me. I am tex­ting them and call­ing them a lot. We are talk­ing, we are ex­cited to get to school and get this pro­gram turned around. I think we are pretty close, I think we have the right guys and guys who are look­ing for­ward to be­ing in that po­si­tion and get­ting it back to where it was.”

Mitchell will be work­ing with UConn line­backer coach Jon Whol­ley who worked with star lineback­ers Scott Lutrus, Lawrence Wil­son, Sio Moore, Yawin Small­wood, Jory John­son dur­ing his first stint at UConn. There will be new faces at a cou­ple of other po­si­tions. A new de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor could be an­nounced by the school this week while Matt King was named as the foot­ball pro­gram’s new strength coach on Fri­day.

“I’ve been talk­ing to them, ex­cited to get to know them,” Mitchell said. “They’ll give me a work­out from their strength coach, just eat­ing right, get­ting in the weight room, get­ting on the field and work­ing so I can help them when I get there.

I talked to Coach [ Ed­sall], he said he is a re­ally good guy and he is go­ing to get the team to where it needs to be.”


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