Ernest Mitchell is the starting nose tackle for the Arkansas Razorbacks and as a junior last season he competed in 12 games, and started 11 of them.
He recorded 66 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries, one pass breakup and a forced fumble. He was seventh on the team in tackles, tied for first with Malcolm Sheppard in tackles for loss, second in sacks and third in hurries.
In his sophomore season he played in all 14 games because of an injury to Marcus Harrison. As a redshirt freshman he appeared in nine games.
Mitchell graduated from Newnan High School in Newnan, Ga., where he accounted for 146 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 10 sacks during his final season where he led his team to a 13-2 record. He was the Coweta-Fayette County Player of the Year, was ranked the 18th-best overall prospects in the state of Georgia and 27th-best defensive tackle in the nation, both by Rivals.com. He came out of high school bench pressing 425 pounds with a squat lift of 540. He was recruited by Arkansas, Florida State and Clemson. So why Arkansas?
“They were on me from the beginning,” Mitchell said of his decision. “I’m a man of my word, so I stuck with them. I love it here. There’s no place I’d rather be.”
The role of a nose tackle is not a simple one. Each play he encounters something new and has a specific duty on every down. He faces trap blocks from all directions and double teams.
All the while, he has maintained a positive attitude for the Razorback defense and has 16 tackles and four quarterback hurries this fall in limited action.
Mitchell has undergone a series of setbacks to his senior season, including off-season surgery to repair a knee ligament in January and another knee procedure this fall. He returned to the field each time ready to go and had one motivating thought all the while.
“Don’t think about yourself, think about your teammates,” Mitchell said. “They needed me so I had to work hard to get back.”
Mitchell may have had to learn a new way of doing things on the field last spring when head coach Bobby Petrino came in to coach the Hogs, but at its core he understands what needs to be done.
“It’s all the same,” Mitchell said about the new practice routine. “Go out there and work hard, and just take one day at a time.”
Mitchell entered this season with high hopes for success for the Razorbacks and his goal for the season is like any other athlete playing a sport at the NCAA level.
“Of course to win a national championship,” Mitchell said of his ultimate prize.
Returning to full strength after his second procedure in less than a year, Mitchell is a key piece to Arkansas’ success on the defensive line and will be counted on down the stretch.
Mitchell is majoring in turf management, with a minor in sociology, and plans to pursue a career in turf management once his playing days are over.