Friday Night Files: Adonai Mitchell
Mitchell and his family moved to Nashville this year from Texas, where he was already showing himself to be an elite talent on the edge. When Mitchell enrolled at 6A powerhouse Cane Ridge, he elevated an excellent receiving corps to an embarrassment of riches. Mitchell joined a receiving room that already had four-star wideout Quenton Barnes and Tyroid Good, both in the 2021 class. Good is starting to pick up some interest from FBS programs in his own right, and the junior season he is putting together is going to open more eyes each week. Mitchell is rated on either side of the three/four-star boundary depending on grading service, but he looked to be poised to climb in the 2021 rankings. That is, until the young man who had been moved up a grade by his parents early in his academic career announced this week that he would reclassify. Now it appears that Mitchell is ready to make a leap in the 2020 rankings.
Make no mistake about it, Mitchell is going to climb those rankings, and he should do so quickly. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, the recruiting industry focuses more closely on the oldest class in the cycle, which is currently the 2020 group. These are the young men that will be committing and signing with schools the soonest. It is their recruitments that will be the most bitterly contested as National Signing Day approaches, and it profits the industry to have them evaluated the most carefully. Since Mitchell has moved up, he should be getting more eyes focusing on him and his tape in the coming weeks as scouts look to position him accurately among his new peers. Those scouts will see that Mitchell has developed his game, developed physically, and to the second reason he will grade higher, he is better than his current grade.
Adonai Mitchell is an explosive athlete and a natural wide receiver. At six feet three inches tall, he has the height to give most corners problems on the edge. His long arms and strong hands also mean that he has a large catch radius for his quarterback. Obviously, a well-thrown ball is what all quarterbacks and offenses strive to see, as accuracy leads to better opportunities. That said, every quarterback will tell you that they appreciate a receiver that allows them a larger target, not just for the mismatches it creates against a corner, but for the ability a big receiver has to cover up a quarterback’s mistake on what would be an incompletion. Mitchell is that kind of player, snatching the ball out of the air with his hands, away from his body, and at multiple angles when the Ravens played Hillsboro on October 17th. Where Mitchell showed his explosiveness, and his ability to stretch his catch radius even further, was when he went up to catch balls. Mitchell can climb the ladder, and he climbs to the top in a hurry. Multiple passes that, by all rights, should have been incompletions thrown well over his head instead turned into long gains for the Ravens thanks to Mitchell’s leaping ability. It is more than just jumping to
high point the ball, in space, Mitchell soars up, extends his arms, spears the football out of the air with his hands, and hits the ground running. The last part isn’t a turn of phrase either, Mitchell hits the ground already moving his feet to get up to full speed. His body control and awareness are incredibly impressive, as there is no delay to get to speed when he comes down from catching a high pass. The instant Mitchell’s toe touches the turf, his foot is driving, pushing him forward and allowing him to accelerate, gain yards, throw off defenders’ angles, and get upfield far faster than anticipated. His leaps are explosive. That word keeps coming up, but it is the only one to adequately express how quickly and how far he gets up. The acceleration was noticeable in the game, but upon film review, the awareness, practice, and dedication to craft required to achieve that fluidity came to light.
All of these qualities contribute to and supplement what are perhaps the biggest portions of Mitchell’s game. The way he tracks the ball in flight is as good as there currently is in the country. He locates, high points, and snatches the ball with his strong hands as well as a receiver could be asked to. Mitchell has excellent ball skills and coupled with his leaping prowess and height, make him a prime weapon on deep throws, red zone situations, and fifty-fifty balls. Mitchell has strong hands and has spent time committing to refining the technique of catching the football. He understands hand placement, how to bring his hands to the ball, and the orientation of his hands all impact the way he can or cannot make a catch. This means that Mitchell offers a big target, with a large catch radius, that is skilled at positioning himself to get a ball, and he catches most everything that he gets his hands on. That last sentence describes a receiver every quarterback in the country wants to be able to throw the ball to. As he did against Hillsboro, Mitchell has the speed and quickness to make a difficult play on the ball, catch it, and then run after the catch for more yards, and in this particular instance, a score.
For all of his talent, Mitchell is still a young player that needs to develop. He has good speed, able to threaten a defense at all levels, but he will not be among the fastest receivers Tennessee pursues this cycle. (Then again, with Jimmy Calloway running in the low 4.3’s and Jalin Hyatt having been clocked at 4.27, that bar has been set quite high.) Mitchell is plenty fast enough to make defenses respect and fear him though, especially with his quickness and acceleration coming down from a leap. If Mitchell ends up at an SEC program, they will likely make putting some muscle on his one hundred ninety-pound frame a priority, to ensure that he can sustain the pounding he will take from SEC safeties and linebackers. Mitchell did drop what would have been a touchdown in the first drive for the Ravens, which ultimately came up empty for Cane Ridge. However, he showed everything a coaching staff could hope to see after that play. His wide receiver coach stated that was the first ball he had seen Mitchell drop since he arrived at Cane Ridge. The following drive, Mitchell made a difficult catch while well covered and turned it into an impressive touchdown. In his post-game interview, Mitchell discussed why he dropped the ball, sighting poor hand technique as he attempted to catch the ball, what he should have done, and how he corrected it the rest of the game. That kind of awareness, willingness to accept coaching and attention to detail means the last note on Mitchell is a minor one. The routes that he runs are good at the high school level, but he is often able to get open with superior athletic ability, as well as his size. Mitchell doesn’t run a complex route tree, but at this point in his career, he has neither been asked to nor has he needed to. The routes he does run are clean, crisp, and effective, and he demonstrates an instinctual awareness of where the sticks are and how deep to press a route. His routes will be further grown and developed at the next level, but with
what shows up on tape and in person with Mitchell, that is coaching he will accept and thrive in taking.
One of the questions that this began with was why would Mitchell choose to reclassify in the first place? This is because a single school or multiple schools are aware that he can do so, need for him immediately in 2020, and have encouraged him to do so. One of the teams that fits that bill best is, unsurprisingly, one of Mitchell’s chief suitors, the University of Tennessee. While Mitchell stated post-game that Missouri had also encouraged him toward reclassification, the signs point to this being in response to pursuit from Tennessee. Mitchell chose to reclassify after a visit to Knoxville, which he said he enjoyed. The Vols graduate multiple receivers this season and it is imperative that they land multiple players that are capable of contributing early at the position in this cycle. Even with Hyatt and Calloway committed, Mitchell would be an immediate contributor, a talented athlete to add, and a player Tennessee has to feel confident about landing. This should be an interesting recruitment to follow, but there is a feeling of more news soon to come around Cane Ridge and Mitchell.
Senior Recruiting Analyst
Brandon Martin is from the mountains of southeast Tennessee, a proud alumnus of ETSU, and has ended up living in Nashville after stints in Memphis and the Tri-Cities.
Football season takes him all over the Southeast, covering games in the Nashville-Middle Tennessee region, East Tennessee, Memphis-West Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia. He covers all things UT with a focus on Recruiting and Tennessee Basketball. If you see him at a game, please, come say hello.