Class of 2014 First Look: Billy Ray Mitchell

At points throughout the 2013 season, the Hokies were dangerously thin on the offensive line. Against Alabama, Virginia Tech only dressed six offensive linemen with any collegiate game experience, along with true freshman Jonathan McLaughlin. Depth improved with the return of Mark Shuman, and the transition of Alston Smith and Wyatt Teller from defensive to offensive line. However, the Hokies never needed to test those new guys when the game was on the line as none of the starters suffered an injuries serious enough to miss a game.

Still, Coach Jeff Grimes had a vision for the future, and that future focused on long, athletic, zone blocking offensive linemen with great feet and reach. One of Grimes early targets was talented 6-4, 280 pound New Jersey lineman Billy Ray Mitchell. Mitchell is a lean, mobile offensive lineman with great short range punch. He gets extension and runs through defenders. He has tremendous upper body strength that he uses to finish blocks in an intimidating fashion. Much like Wyatt Teller, he plays right up to the whistle and intimidates would be defenders with an aggressive approach. He also has room to grow. I will be interested in how much he actually weighs, as he looks like a lean, athletic almost 18-year-old kid. In pictures, he appears to be closer to 260 pounds than 280, but he has plenty of room to grow on his frame.

At the time of his commitment, Mitchell projected to be a right tackle for Virginia Tech. But, during his senior season he spent time at center, right guard, and right tackle. With David Wang and Matt Arkema both graduating after next season, Mitchell could potentially factor in to the battle for the next Hokie starting center.

Let's take a look at the film. Most of Mitchell's senior season was spent at right guard. I love his punch and extension to go with his mobility. Here, Mitchell is uncovered in a pass pro situation.

00:02:03–00:02:08

Mitchell takes a bucket step to the outside to take any blitz that comes through his outside gap. He quickly identifies that there is no blitz and turns back to the inside. Without getting overextended, he delivers a vicious two handed bench press punch to the nose tackle, who is working over to Mitchell off the center. The nose tackle goes flying, and Mitchell turns back to the outside to confirm that there is no blitz threat. This is textbook guard play for pass pro against an odd front.

Also, for a zone blocking scheme to be effective against an odd front, the back side guard must be able to reach block a good nose tackle, and against an even front, he must be able to chip a defensive tackle and then get to the second level on the linebacker. Getting a body on the linebacker allows the running back to cut off his block on a stretch play. Here, Mitchell is at right guard and his school runs a zone stretch play.

00:01:29–00:01:36

Mitchell has to zone step to his left. He secures his gap with a punch on the inside shoulder of the defensive tackle while moving away from the defender. This allows the right tackle to complete the scoop block on the three-technique defensive tackle. Mitchell releases the down lineman and runs to the play side until he is in within reach of the safety. He pushes the safety into the sideline, and the back cuts off the block for a big run. This is beautiful back side blocking on a zone stretch play.

Blocking on the back side of the stretch requires terrific speed, technique, and effort. On the play side, the guard must get his head to the play side of the defender and then have the strength and footwork to seal him inside or run him laterally into the sideline. Here, the defensive tackle wins initially, but Mitchell's strength, footwork, and effort turns an initial problem into a successful block.

00:04:34–00:04:41

At the snap, Mitchell takes a solid first step, but the tackle quickly crosses his face and widens out. Mitchell recovers and turns him out then runs him right out of the picture.

Mitchell showed the same ability while taking snaps at center. First, against even fronts, the center has to pick up dog blitzes right up the middle and support both guards against the defensive tackle. Again, even with the added responsibility of snapping, Mitchell is quick to move side to side and help both of his teammates.

00:01:40–00:01:46

Mitchell also retains his quickness and strength at the center position. Here, Mitchell is facing a gargantuan defensive tackle who is aligned over the right guard. Mitchell has to get his head on the outside of the tackle and turn him back on the inside.

00:02:45–00:02:50

While this tackle isn't exactly John Randle, he is a huge guy and by alignment he has an advantage over Mitchell. Mitchell reaches him easily without needing a chip block from his guard on the play side. The guard is then freed up to go reach the linebacker.

Finally, Mitchell isn't just a finesse blocker. He has tremendous leg drive. While I have no way to confirm this, his experiment at center seemed to start when his coaches moved him to center on short yardage plays. Several highlights have Mitchell lined up at center on short yardage situations because his leg drive is outstanding. Here, his teams runs a quarterback sneak.

00:01:12–00:01:18

With offensive linemen, you can't teach reach, athleticism, and explosiveness. But, most importantly, you have to find offensive linemen who continue to move their feet at contact. For me, the biggest red flag I can see in scouting a player is to watch his feet at contact. If you see a blocker who stops their feet to brace themselves, that is a guy that I am going to worry about being effective at the next level. As you can see on this play, Mitchell snaps the ball and keeps his feet chopping hard right through contact, just like he was driving the old Rogers sled on the practice field.

Throughout his film, Mitchell continues to impress with his attitude and effort. The Hokies have some good potential young depth at guard with Alston Smith, Augie Conte, and Colt Pettit for Mitchell to compete with. But, at center, there are no young players in line after the 2014 season other than Eric Gallo. Gallo could potentially be a solid lineman, but he will take some time to develop. Mitchell could be perfectly positioned to be the starting Virginia Tech center in time for the Labor Day showdown against Ohio State in Lane Stadium in 2015.

Watch Billy Ray Mitchell's full highlights below.

Comments

I don't think I've ever been this excited about an O-Line recruit, not to mention a whole crop of them!

That finishing blow on the NT in the first video made my inner Ron Swanson, well,
Ron

Now THIS is a bedtime story. Now that I feel all warm and fuzzy about the future of our OLine (and a guy who not only played the position in high school but has a tendency to make his opponents finish the play either on the ground or out of the frame), it's time for sleep.

It's a good thing in OL play when called for, but always a bad thing in baseball. Yay cross-sport technique terms...

Thanks again for the awesome article... as always French! I truly believe that even though there will be a learning curve from high school to college OL play....this recruiting class is the start of something very special in Blacksburg. Give it a few years and not only will VT be THE #DBU but we just might also be labeled the #OLU....Go Hokies!

VT Fan for Life!!!!

Great frame to build on, good technique, mean, plays to the whistle, bad ass name, bad ass hair cut. I love it.

Badass beard too.

True Hokies STICK IT IN!!!

STICK IT IN Army of Virginia Tech

Fosterball

Should note, his team is a perennial powerhouse (finished #2 in NJ I believe) that plays against top competition. This bodes well for our future. Thanks for the film review

Welcome to TKP. Great avi.

True Hokies STICK IT IN!!!

STICK IT IN Army of Virginia Tech

Fosterball

Welcome aboard!
I'm a newbie and love this board!
Frenchie provides great articles and so far the people on here are friendly to one znother as fellow Hokie fans should be IMPO! Not like the bickering back and forth on another site!
Enjoy!

Go Hokies!

Rescue a Greyhound, please!

Great job French! Can't wait to see him on the field

Thank you for the analysis, French. This is new and exciting. I am used to watching film for "Skill players," DBs, LBs and TEs. It is refreshing to see actual offensive linemen, playing in position, and looking promising at this early point in his career. Beats the heck out of watching TE or DL film knowing they will likely end up a OL convert.

amen to that.

“I hope that they’re not going to have big eyes and pee down their legs so to speak,” -- Bud Foster

Way to show the love French!

Offensive linemen are the second-most important guys on offense IMO (after the QB). A good line and no one touches the RB for the first 3 yards. Gives the QB the time he needs for receivers to complete their routes and the space to make a good throw.

These guys deserve the attention of the Hokie Nation too, and your review is as detailed as it would be for a QB, RB or DB, showing us the techniques they'll need to excel.

"When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -Ray Kroc

Does he deserve the nickname Sweet Baby Ray? Because he looks like he is saucing people with some of those pancakes....

"And it is caught, it is caught for a touchdown"

Doesn't everyone???

"And it is caught, it is caught for a touchdown"

I don't know about pancakes, but on waffles definitely

In case anyone else was wondering, the paladins were the foremost warriors of Charlemagne's court.

And the first and foremost characters of nerds everywhere.

Whoa there. Every good nerd knows to roll ranger.

Well I'm sorry that rangers can get the job done without thinking about whether one of a billion deities is gonna be upset about how they did it.

I found an old video of him as a tyke. Check it (he was - and is - bad@$$)!

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Confirmed that Billy Ray is Team Pie.

Viva El Guapo

This should be an aspect of every recruits film review. Cake vs. Pie.

#thingsiblamethemvsfor

Great Job Frenchie. Your college line coach would be very proud!!!!!!!!!!!

To the place where Louie dwells.

Much obliged Wiley. Coach Selfe was a good one. I wish I had been a better student.

Viva El Guapo

Love the pancakes and the way he plays through the whistle and pushes guys out of the frame.