The nose tackle is the unsung hero on any successful defense in football.
He usually doesn’t rack up a ton of tackles because he is double- and triple-teamed.
But by doing an efficient job engaging the center and guards, and clogging up the middle of the field, he can shut down a running game as his teammates are able to make tackles for very little gain.
He can also be a valuable asset against the pass, rushing the quarterback or, once again, creating sack opportunities for his teammates by forcing a double- or triple-team on him.
That is Charles Mitchell’s job for the University of Maine.
And the fact the Black Bears enter Saturday’s game at Football Bowl Subdivision team Central Michigan leading the Football Championship Subdivision in fewest rushing yards allowed per game (13.5) and second in sacks per game (6) indicate Mitchell is getting the job done.
He doesn’t mind playing an unsung position.
“I’m a team player. It has always been team first, me second. I’ll push through and do whatever I can to make sure the team is good. If I get double-teamed every play, I’ll take that,” Mitchell said.
UMaine defensive coordinator Corey Hetherman said Mitchell works hard every day.
“He has been doing his job, and that wasn’t always the case last year. But this year he has done a real good job executing his assignment,” Hetherman said. “He has been staying in the gaps and staying in the rushing lanes.”
Mitchell has been in on five tackles through two games with 3.5 being tackles for loss. He also has 2.5 sacks.
“He is our most violent player. He’s very explosive,” UMaine head coach Joe Harasymiak said. “He sets the tone on the defensive line. He dents a lot of things.”
Mitchell enjoys life in the trenches.
“I like the violent nature of it. I’m violent when it comes to football. Being able to fight off a double team and still get a TFL [tackle-for-loss] is what I love the most,” Mitchell said. “There’s a brotherhood in there, too. I’m not the only guy in there. I’ve got other guys with me, and we’re all fighting together. That’s something I love about it.”
Defensive end Kayon Whitaker is one of his partners in the trenches.
“He’s a great player. He’s very disruptive. He’s always causing the offense problems. I’m happy to have him on my team playing next to me,” Whitaker said.
Mitchell, who is a junior, has been playing with a purpose since his first day in Orono.
He was chosen the defensive scout player of the year during his first season, his redshirt season. That is an award that goes to players for their work during practice, emulating the upcoming opponent’s tendencies.
He had four tackles in eight games as a redshirt freshman and the following spring (2017) he learned his partial scholarship had been bumped up to a full scholarship.
“That was a dream come true and I’ve never let up. I’ve never let go of the gas pedal. I’m trying to exceed my expectations,” said the 6-foot-1, 275-pound Piscataway, New Jersey, native who was fourth on the team in total tackles last year with 58 and third in tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (4.5).
Mitchell almost quit the sport in sixth grade.
He had always been one of the biggest players on the field, but he found himself in a situation where he wasn’t going to be.
“I told my dad [Charles Mitchell Sr.] that the guys I was going up against were going to be too big for me. He told me to get my big [rear end] out there. I was just as big as them,” Mitchell said.
He was an all-conference and all-state player at Piscataway High and originally committed to attend Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. But he decommitted and came to UMaine.
Former UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove had visited Mitchell, and Mitchell said “he was so genuine.”
When he and his father visited Orono, they were sold.
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