PLAQUEMINE — First-year starting quarterbacks and the Wing-T offense don’t always mix well.
There’s a reason Plaquemine football coach Paul Distefano has no reservations about Austin Mitchell.
You could argue that the senior was born for the job. Or at the very least, Mitchell had no reservations about playing it.
“He has that natural ability to make people miss,” Distefano said. “He never takes big hits. He ran the offense for the (junior varsity) when he was freshman, and he knows it better than some of our coaches. When he was in our Renegades youth program, you know with a smile … the Wing-T.”
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Mitchell wears a retired number. The No. 1 was worn by his great uncle Brian Mitchell, a Plaquemine star at quarterback who went on to play QB at Louisiana-Lafayette before moving on to a stellar NFL career as a running back/return specialist who amassed 23,330 total yards.
“I get in touch with him sometimes,” Mitchell said of his famous relative who is now a broadcaster living in Virginia. “I used to watch his videos on YouTube. I’ve tried to find video of him playing quarterback in high school but haven’t found anything.”
Distefano interjects, “That was before VCRs (in the 1980s).”
This Mitchell — the 2015 edition — hasn’t taken an official snap as Plaquemine starting quarterback. But his résumé is not devoid of accomplishments.
During the Green Devils’ run to the Class 4A semifinals last fall, Mitchell played running back and rushed for 946 yards on 108 carries with 17 touchdowns. He had 15 catches for 230 yards and three more touchdowns.
Mitchell scored a TD every five times he touched the ball last season, so giving him the chance to have it on every play should be a good thing for Plaquemine. Distefano is convinced.
“Making people miss is my favorite thing,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes it’s funny. You can see (defenders) looking around after.”
Recruiters have started to take notice, too. Most view Mitchell as a slot receiver on the college level. He has attracted inquiries from McNeese State, Memphis, UL-Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, Southern and Grambling. A 3.1 grade-point average, a solid ACT score and plans for an engineering major should make Mitchell a desirable commodity. Distefano also pointed out Mitchell won’t turn 17 until after the 2015 season begins and may still be growing.
“His football IQ is way up there,” Distefano said. “So much of it is just pure instinct. Austin has that ability to set defenders up in the open field.
“He runs the sweep to perfection. He waits and lets those big guards get on the outside to set things up. He’s a patient runner who waits to set things up, and then in the open field does his thing. Not all guys can do that.”
Running in the open field is one thing. Proving himself as a quarterback is another. So Mitchell has spent the summer working to improve his arm strength and reads. Watching films of two-year starter D’Morea Wicks, now at Air Force, has been a plus. So have some intense workouts.
“We’ve been working on plays all the time this summer,” Mitchell said. “We work at school. If we’re not here, a group of us will go to another park and run plays.”
Though he is related to a legendary player, Mitchell is not about entitlement. He seeks accomplishments. Mitchell’s list of goals includes helping the Green Devils in their quest for a third straight district title and another deep playoff run.
“I have to stay mentally focused and not get down,” Mitchell said. “If I get down the team, can get down. Quarterback is that kind of position.”