Usc football

Connor Mitch gets an early start on learning offense

dmclemore@thestate.comMarch 20, 2013 

Connor Mitch is two months into a head start on his college football education.

The quarterback enrolled at South Carolina in January and was under center with the Gamecocks when the team opened spring practice this month.

So far, so good, Mitch said.

“I’m learning the plays, adjusting to coverages and the speed of the game, something you have to do as a freshman,” he said. “The reason I graduated early was to come for spring ball. It’s been great.”

Mitch enrolled early along with cornerback Ronnie Martin and offensive lineman D.J. Park.

With senior Connor Shaw recovering from foot surgery, Mitch is getting his share of spring practice snaps along with redshirt junior Dylan Thompson, redshirt freshman Brendan Nosovitch, and walk-ons Perry Orth and Austin Hails.

Mitch is friends with all the quarterbacks, but Thompson in particular has taken him under his wing.

“He’s teaching me everything you can see out there,” Mitch said. “When getting the plays in from coach, he’s telling me everything, what’s going on, learning the signals and everything. He’s been great.”

Mitch, a four-star prospect in most recruiting circles, comes from Raleigh with a record-setting career. He is second in four career categories in North Carolina high school history: passing for 12,078 yards with 1,384 attempts, 807 completions and 153 touchdowns. In his senior year at Wakefield High, Mitch threw for 4,661 yards and 63 touchdowns.

The 6-foot-3, 219-pound Mitch, who wore No. 3 in high school, is wearing No. 6 with the Gamecocks.

On Tuesday, he connected with sophomore receiver Shaq Roland for a long gain during the seven-on-seven part of practice. Fans likely won’t see the two hook up in a real game until 2014 or beyond.

Mitch has been open in declaring his willingness to redshirt this year. With a pair of returning starters in Shaw and Thompson, quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus said the main goal for Mitch is to make mental progress.

“It’s an advantage for him to get here and get a jumpstart,” Mangus said, “but he’s got a lot to learn.”

Mitch’s midyear enrollment meant an immediate introduction to the team’s winter workouts, which included a 5:15 a.m. wakeup to get to the 6 a.m. sessions on time.

Friday-morning conditioning and 300-yard shuttle runs were particularly challenging, Mitch said.

“At the end, I felt like I was running a treadmill going nowhere,” he said. “I’m not used to getting up early like that. Usually, workouts in high school are after school. That was hard, going out there every day, lifting, running and conditioning. It was a lot different, but I loved it.”

The speed of college defensive backs and their ability to break on the ball have been adjustments for Mitch.

In the film room, Mangus is helping him recognize coverages.

“In high school, they show you pretty much what they’re going to run,” Mitch said. “Here, they disguise and move, and that’s something I haven’t been used to and that’s what I’m trying to adjust to.”

Learning everything he can about South Carolina’s system, playbook and signals is why Mitch is here now instead of in Raleigh.

“That’s the biggest part,” he said. “That’s why I graduated early. It’s a lot compared to high school.”

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