Robert Morris wide receiver Duane Mitchell said he wanted to change positions, and apparently his coaches wanted him to also.
Mitchell came to Robert Morris from Stow High School in Monroe Falls, Ohio. Recruited as a running back, the 6-foot-1, 205 pound sophomore was often criticized for running too upright. Mitchell is now listed as the back-up flanker to junior Donte Jeter. At his current frame, Mitchell is the second biggest wide receiver on the depth chart.
"I want to be a playmaker, just like everybody else," he said.
A playmaker will be a warm welcome to a young, inexperienced offense. In the 2011 season, Robert Morris ranked dead last in total points (210) and points per game (19.1) in the Northeast Conference.
Mitchell could be an answer to those woeful offensive statistics. He says he "loves" the receiver position because he "gets to make plays outside." Being on the outside the hash marks should be a warm welcome from running in the trenches like he was all of 2011 as a freshman running back.
"I was actually going to ask to move, so we (the coaches) were on the same court," Mitchell said.
Prior to the switch, Mitchell described his wide receiver experience as "a little here and a little there" and added that spring ball was the first real time he split out wide. A position change isn't easy for anyone, especially in the complicated pro-style offense coach Joe Walton runs.
"Everyone on the team has been a huge help. Whether it's the tight ends or receivers telling me what to do or not do, or coach Walton or (running back coach Bob) Morris helping me, everyone's been a big help," he said.
Mitchell says he doesn't model his game after one particular player in the college or pro game. He emphasized the fact that he just wants to "do things right" and how it comes down to execution.
Because of the suspension to quarterback Jeff Sinclair for the first two games of the season, sophomore Matt Layman will be the starter against FCS defending national champions North Dakota State and NEC co-champions Albany. When asked what the biggest difference was between the two quarterbacks Mitchell struggled to answer.
"I can't really explain the difference. They both try and do the right thing all the time. I don't really see a difference," he said.
The thing that most separates Mitchell from other young players is his determination and competitiveness.
"I just have a want for the ball, a want to win. I want my team to do great," Mitchell said.
Defeating North Dakota State would be a start. Mitchell noted that he expects his team to come out together and echoed that remark later when he talked about the offense as a unit, saying their strength is, "our ability to work together. We've got to know what everyone is doing and execute for ourselves."
The key to beating a team as good as North Dakota State is staying focused, according to Mitchell. Although he admits he needs to work on every aspect of his game, he noted that the Bison are no different than any other team and he wants his team to come out together.
Saturday will be a big test, but for a man who wants to become a playmaker, the test is welcomed.