[Photo: Press of Atlantic City]
Egg Harbor City (NJ) Cedar Creek WR Ahmir Mitchell chose Michigan over fellow finalist Ohio State
in a press conference this evening by having a dang plane fly over his hometown with a "GO BLUE" sign trailing off the back. While the Buckeyes reportedly didn't push hard for a commitment—they've got a numbers crunch of their own and several top-flight WRs interested in the 2016 and 2017 classes—Mitchell is far from a consolation prize; he's a strong four-star with the capability to contribute in all three phases of the game.
Mitchell is the 23rd commit in the 2016 class, the third from New Jersey (Brad Hawkins, Ron Johnson), and the second at wide receiver (Hawkins).
4*, #24 WR,
4*, #19 WR,
4*, 82, #31 WR,
4*, 94, #8 ATH,
4*, #7 ATH,
Mitchell's rankings on both Scout and Rivals fell recenty from ~50 overall and I don't think the 247 Composite has entirely caught up yet; he's still regarded as a very good prospect. He's the type of athlete who could easily shoot back into the top-100 range with a strong showing his senior season.
All four sites are in relative agreement on his size; they all list him at 6'3" and 195-206 pounds. He's got a Junior Hemingway type frame and he's a couple inches taller than Hemingway.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
The free evaluation from Scout's Brian Dohn is representative of the general consensus on Mitchell's game:
EvaluationMitchell is a long and athletic, and gets down the field well. He has good hands and knows how to use his body to gain position against smaller defensive backs. He comes out of breaks well but needs to be a bit more precise in his route running. He is a tremendous competitor, and it shows when the ball is in the air. He high-points the ball, and doesn't mind going over the middle. He can be a possession receiver, or a big play guy. -- Brian Dohn
- Hands and Concentration
Areas to Improve
- Ability To Beat Jams
- Route-Running Skills
While the focus of Mitchell's recruitment has turned to his abilities on offense, he stood out on both sides of the ball at last year's PA Swag 7-on-7 tournament, per Dohn:
It didn't matter whether Mitchell lined up at wide receiver or defensive back: when the sophomore was on the field, everyone knew it. He already made our Top 10 defensive players, and he was also among the top offensive players. He mixed range with physicality, attacked the ball and did a nice job of using his long arms and body to gain separation down the field.
On defense, Dohn lauded him for his ability to react quickly, cover ground, and make plays on the ball.
This June, Mitchell displayed an improved ability to get off the line at the Rutgers passing camp, earning the #4 overall performer distinction from Rivals' Adam Friedman ($):
There are few players in the country that are comparable to Mitchell. His size, explosiveness, competitiveness and reliable hands were on full display on Saturday. Cornerbacks that tried to jam him at the line of scrimmage were quickly dispatched and errant passes were hauled in with ease. There was one pass that Mitchell hauled in with one hand between two defenders. He had to pin it against his body because the defender was holding onto his other arm.
Mitchell really stood out during the drill portion of camp, separating himself with explosive speed and he made a bunch of tough one-handed catches. He is a big receiver with a lot of ranginess and he can create space against most defensive backs. Mitchell was a little too quiet during the one-on-one session, but he still made some nice plays and had a strong showing throughout the day.
There are some inconsistent reports about Mitchell's top-end speed and separation ability. ESPN's evaluation notes some stiffness in his movement that's also apparent on film, though he's able to cover for those issues with his size and strength:
He is a power runner with an imposing get off. Can build to top speed a bit and is at his best with quick, one-cut diagonal breaking routes. Can struggle a bit to smoothly speed cut and get into and out of breaks fluidly on sharp breaking routes as he shows some tension in the hips. Must gather some when breaking down going into the top of his route stem. He is very physical in tight quarters and can muscle his way through coverage with strength using his arm length and frame to shield defenders from the ball.
They believe Mitchell's upright running style can make him look less athletic than he really is:
He has a unique gait that at times can make him look stiff with some lower body tightness. However, the more you watch him you realize that he makes things happen with the ball in his hands especially when he can quickly transition after the catch as he is a one-cut, slashing type of runner. He is far more elusive that he is sudden, fluid or laterally agile. He builds to top end speed and when you think he's going to get walked down, he will somehow pull away. He's as fast as he needs to be. he makes most of his big plays because at this level he is so difficult to tackle in the open field.
As you'll see in the highlights, one way Mitchell eludes defenders in the open field is with a mean-ass stiff arm. He also lines up at running back at times in high school. His ability to pick up yards after the catch, whether on screens or downfield, should be an asset.
Rivals explained Mitchell's recent backslide in the rankings—from #51 to #102, which still ain't bad—as the product of some untimely drops:
"Mitchell is one of the best athletes in the country and had a good performance at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, but from then until now hasn't been as good. At Ohio State's Friday Night Lights camp, Mitchell could get open with ease but had some problems catching the ball. More than anything, that's the most important part of being a receiver." -- Friedman
That's a big drop based on a pretty small sample of camp snaps, so hopefully Mitchell proves this fall those were an anomaly.
We'll end with a rather evocative film breakdown from IrishIllustrated's Tim Prister ($):
An aesthetically-pleasing athlete in full stride. Excellent length with swallow-the-football hands, a beautiful yet powerful running stride, and the agility to make twisting/turning catches while staying on his feet. Excellent balance. Gets to full speed quickly after making the catch. Shows quality ball skills with the ability to high-point passes, both as a receiver and a safety. A top-notch tracker of the football.
The areas for improvement note he's "not a 4.4 guy, but plenty fast" and concludes there's "nothing glaring to critique." Sounds good!
Mitchell holds offers from Boston College, Florida State, Michigan State, Ole Miss, NC State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, and several others.
Egg Harbor City (NJ) Cedar Creek plays in one of the smaller classification in New Jersey. Mitchell is easily the most touted recruit to come from the program; in the Rivals era (2002-), only two players—Arkansas WR Damon Mitchell (three-star 2013 dual-threat QB) and two-star 2015 UConn DT signee Felton Blackwell—have signed with FBS programs from Cedar Creek.
According to MaxPreps, Mitchell caught 47 passes for 872 yards (18.6 YPC) and 12 TDs, rushed for 241 yards and five TDs on 27 carries (8.9 YPC), completed his lone pass attempt for 60 yards, scored two touchdowns among his eight kickoff returns, and tallied 37 tackles and a pick—which, yes, he returned for a touchdown—as a junior. Not bad.
FAKE 40 TIME
Multiple sites list a SPARQ-verified 40 time of 4.69, which gets zero FAKEs out of five. That would seemingly confirm the consensus that he lacks elite top-end speed but has enough functional speed in pads.
Junior highlights, wsg mean-ass stiff arm:
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Mitchell will get a shot at early playing time. While Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson will both be seniors when he arrives on campus, no other returning receiver has made a significant impact on the field so far. Mitchell and Hawkins should both compete for a spot on the two-deep. When 2017 rolls around, the race for starting spots should be wide open. Mitchell could also make an early impact as a return man; his running style is well-suited to kickoff returns, where the key to breaking the big one is often shaking off a tackler while maintaining speed.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan could be set at receiver with Mitchell and Hawkins on the outside and athlete Chris Evans in the slot. They could also grab one more; Florida three-star Keyshawn "Pie" Young has Michigan and Alabama as his top two, Paramus Catholic three-star Donald Stewart looked like an inevitable addition before his Stanford offer, and Michigan is creeping back into contention for Detroit King four-star Donnie Corley, who'd likely be a take no matter what.
As for the class as a whole, Michigan is now at 23 commits with 17 scholarships currently open. Between unrenewed fifth-year seniors, expected attrition as the depth chart becomes more clear at certain crowded position groups, and attrition from within the class itself—multiple recent class projections don't include LB Dele Harding—Michigan should have room for their current commits and 2-5 more.
Areas of need include tight end, WDE/BUCK, defensive tackle, and one more offensive lineman. Top individual targets include five-star NJ DT Rashan Gary, five-star CA OLB Caleb Kelly, four-star MD OG Terrance Davis, four-star TX OT Jean Delance, four-star TX DT Chris Daniels, four-star CO WDE/OLB Carlo Kemp, four-star ILB Devin Bush Jr., and four-star TX ILB Dontavious Jackson.