The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and Teradja Mitchell? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
What player on the offensive and defensive side of the ball are you most excited to see get more opportunities to shine?
— Jake Parrish (@JakeParrish14) February 8, 2020
Even if the tracks haven’t been fully cleared, the Teradja Mitchell freight train is gaining steam.
At some point, there’s just no question that the hard-hitting, aggressive linebacker needs to be in the rotation for Ohio State to help take that unit to the next level. And while the returning veterans ahead of him have proven they can get the job done for the three-time defending Big Ten champions and injuries have also been a factor in keeping Mitchell from carving out a bigger role, it’s hard to imagine the junior not getting a chance to leave a mark for the Buckeyes this season.
It’s a little tricky at this point to nail down exactly what Ohio State is going to do with a rotation that is overflowing with talent even after losing Malik Harrison to graduation. The decision by Baron Browning to stick around gives the Buckeyes an athletic, versatile playmaker. Pete Werner took another impressive step forward last year and played the closest version of the Bullet position that the Buckeyes used. And while Tuf Borland remains a lightning rod, he still finished fourth on the team in tackles and is widely hailed as one of the most valuable leaders on the roster.
Throw in trying to find ways to squeeze K’Vaughan Pope, Dallas Gant and Justin Hilliard into the mix and the math gets even more complicated. That’s obviously a good problem for the Buckeyes to have, and the fact that Mitchell still stands out as somebody who needs more reps is a tribute to just how much potential he has put on display on the practice field when completely healthy.
“It’s been a great learning experience,” Mitchell said. “This is my first time ever missing games with an injury. It’s been challenging, but’s it’s really helped me learn the playbook and get an opportunity to develop my mental part of the game.
“The [growth is with] fundamentals. Learning how to use my hands better, getting into the playbook, mentally, just pre-snap, learning where the play is going. Learning the tendencies of different opponents. I feel like that was my biggest leap.”
There were plenty of projections at this time last year that Mitchell was going to make that jump into the lineup, but his hamstring didn’t really allow it. His sophomore campaign eventually included just 12 tackles in nine games, though he did make a couple eye-popping hits along the way and chipped in a pair of tackles for loss in what otherwise turned into a developmental year.
There is still work to be done, particularly at a position where the competition is going to be fierce during spring ball and all the way into training camp. But the buzz around Teradja Mitchell isn’t going to fade any time soon, and more opportunities to get on track with the Buckeyes should be on the way.
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