Vaught's Views: New receiver confident he can help Cats

April 04, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - He lacks experience, but not confidence.

"I would say I am a physical type receiver. I will block. You can't catch the ball every time. You have to be able to block, too. That's part of the job description, but I also think I can stretch the defense a little bit and take on smaller defensive backs. I think my size gives me a big advantage," said Scott Mitchell.

Say hello to Kentucky's most outgoing receiver. So what if he's a former walk-on player at New Mexico who transferred to Mount San Antonio Junior College in Walnut, Calif., where a thumb injury limited him to only four games last season? However, he did have 18 catches for 236 yards and three touchdowns before the injury.

"I was not recruited out of high school (in League City, Texas) and going to junior college was the best move I've ever made in my short lifetime," Mitchell said. "My father told me just to handle my business, do my schoolwork, play well and I would get a scholarship. He was right."


He passes the "look test"

Now the 6-3, 210-pound Mitchell is being counted on to give UK a needed big passing target. He certainly passes the "look test" with his body, speed (4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and overall skills.

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks is trying not to expect too much, too soon. However, it's obvious he's liked what he's seen.

"He's got to be a little more consistent catching the ball," Brooks said after Friday's practice. "But he did much better today than he did (Wednesday). He might be a little nervous where he's trying to learn a new system, trying to learn the routes. But he has the size, the speed and the ability to be a very good receiver.

Mitchell still has a small chip on his shoulder after being overlooked by so many college recruiters coming out of his high school and is thankful for the chance Kentucky has given him.

"Nobody off my high school team got any scholarship offers," Mitchell, who enrolled at UK in January and is now going through spring practice, said. "My coach knew people and had connections, but he just didn't use them. My senior season we went 9-1 and got in the playoffs. That's big-time in Texas. But I don't look back and stay mad because I am here now. I still think everything happened for a reason."

Weather has been an adjustment

Still, Kentucky was not at the top of his list of dream schools. He's had trouble adjusting to the weather. He prefers daily temperatures of 75 to 80, not 20 or even 45 like it was last week for the first two days of spring drills.

Yet he was "overwhelmed" by the fan support when he came to Kentucky for his first look at the Bluegrass state.

"I came here on my visit not knowing what to expect," Mitchell said. "We didn't go on any parties or anything like that on my visit. We just kicked back and I got good vibes about what was going on. There was some kind of energy I was feeding off of. The guys let me know what it was like here."

Despite the criticism offensive coordinator Ron Hudson took over his offense last season, Mitchell liked what he saw on film. He understood Hudson's reasoning for running the ball and wanting a balanced offense.

"You can't catch the ball every time. If you caught a ball every time you were in the game, you would end up with 50 catches a game, and everybody knows that won't happen," Mitchell said. "Kentucky's offense was not conservative. Coach Hudson told me he wants to open the offense more, but more guys have to learn it."

That's why he met often with Hudson the last three months to get a better grasp of the offense and the terminology to prepare him for spring drills.

"I know I have to fit in, but I do think I can add something good to the team," Mitchell said. "But to make plays, I have to be comfortable in the system. That's why spring practice is so important to me. I can't consistently contribute until I know what I'm doing."

Hudson and Phillips are pushing him

Mitchell even likes the way both Hudson and receivers coach Joker Phillips are pushing him to improve.

"Coach Hudson is not the hard-nose guy everybody makes him out to be. I like him," Mitchell said. "I like the way coach Phillips pushes me. That's something that drew me here.

"I believe in this program or I wouldn't be here. I really believe Kentucky will become a powerhouse in the SEC."

If Mitchell plays half as well as he looks or talks, he should be a big plus for the Wildcats - and the media.

"What can I say? My grandmother had me talking in front of people before I was 5 years old. It's nothing new," Mitchell said. "I just like to have fun. I enjoy people, but I honestly didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I have here. Coming to Kentucky is going to turn out to be the best thing I ever did."

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