Steven Mitchell Jr. and USC Know It’s His Time in 2015


For a player that’s had only seven career catches at USC, it sure looks like Steven Mitchell Jr. has been the go­to wide receiver for a few years. After suffering injuries that either slowed him down or kept him off the field in his first two seasons, the redshirt sophomore looks ready to break out.

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In spring practice, summer workouts and now in fall camp, Mitchell’s rapport with quarterback Cody Kessler has grown every step of the way. And that’s not the only thing that’s been increasing for him.

“My confidence is starting to come to me more,” Mitchell Jr. said after practice this week. “I can say I’m not the same Steven I was in high school, I’m better. My confidence is up, my weight is up, I’m smarter. So I’m feeling good.”

He’s been able to stay healthy, and doesn’t worry anymore about his prior injuries. Mitchell also doesn’t have to fret about competing for playing time, which has helped him focus on other things and improve his ability overall.

“His comfort level is awesome,” said Kessler. “He’s starting to feel like the guy now. He’s playing that primary slot position instead of fighting for his spot or not knowing if he’s going to play. He’s the one that’s going to be with the ones all the time. It does really help when you get that comfort level and confidence is up, it shows so much improvement in your game.”

The physical tools are apparent. He’s fast. He’s quick. He has good hands. His ability to change direction is exceptional.

There is simply so much he can bring to the table on any given play.

Mar 3, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver Steven Mitchell (7) at spring practice at Cromwell Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“He’s easily able to make people miss in space, whether it’s route running or running after the catch,” said USC wide receivers coach Tee Martin. “He’s always had that ability since recruiting him in high school. He’s very unique in terms of how his body can move and how he can go from 0 to 100 really fast.”

He also has the brains to match the brawn. Mitchell is obsessed with knowing every nook and cranny in the USC playbook. With many newcomers joining the USC receiving corps this upcoming season, one clear advantage Mitchell wants to have is knowing the system better than anyone else.

“Offseason was getting stronger from the weight room and staying in the books,” Mitchell said. “I think everything is going to come to me, because I stay in the books all day.”

A weapon like this can be so dangerous for the Trojans. Mitchell has the ability to outsmart whoever is covering him. Not only does he know every route, he will burn you if you guess incorrectly on what route he is running.

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“Steven is probably the best route runner on the team,” said USC safety Chris Hawkins. “He can give you so much ins and outs, that you kinda have to guess. But if you guess wrong, it’s a touchdown. Steven is very electric too, very fast. He’s one of the hardest to guard on the team.”

Last season, it was Nelson Agholor who was the toughest Trojan wideout to cover. Agholor was the primary slot receiver, which limited Mitchell’s playing time.

“Last year, I was able to play behind and learn from Nelson,” Mitchell said. “This year, I just know it’s time. I know it’s time.”

The two still keep in contact. And just like Agholor last season, USC doesn’t want to keep Mitchell Jr. solely in the slot.

The coaching staff thinks he has the talent and the grasp of the offensive scheme to move him to the outside.

“Last season, he was Agholor’s backup pretty much when he was 100 percent in the slot,” Martin said. “But with his knowledge of the system, being able to move around and play other positions is something we’ll be focusing on with him during training camp. I’m excited about the next three weeks with how much more we can improve him before our first game.”

Essentially, that could make Mitchell an absolute matchup nightmare on all areas of the field.

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