On May 19, 2015 it was announced that Oregon State center Josh Mitchell had been added to the Remington Watch List, which honors the nation’s best center. For some, this was a shock as most fans would not look at the Beaver offensive line the past two years and clamor for any players to garner national recognition. In fact, as is often the case, the offensive line is left holding the bag for most offensive struggles, right or wrong.
On a the much-maligned Beaver offensive line, most fans probably only know injury-plagued, All Pac-12 2nd Team center Isaac Seumalo. For those of you who are not familiar with Josh, you need to be. Josh, since his first days at OSU in 2012, has been one of the most consistent and hard working players on the Beavers. This season, he will be one of several three-year starters and is one of the key reasons that Beaver coaches are optimistic they will be able to run the ball well this year.
Looking over my practice notes from 2012, I remember going to watch fall camp wondering if the Beavers were going to find a way to improve on a miserable 2011 campaign. When I watched the offensive line (as I often do), I made notes such as, “These guys are huge! Coach DeVan looks like a linebacker compared to these guys!” At the time, starting linemen Michael Philipp, Grant Enger, ‘Juice’ Andrews, Colin Kelly, and rising star freshman Isaac Seumalo looked gigantic — especially with massive freshmen stars like Garret Weinreich and Gavin Andrews looking on.
The interesting thing is, when I look at those notes or go back and listen to the audio recordings, this is what I hear:
“Man, number 50 is everywhere!”
“50 again makes a great stop. High motor, very athletic out of his stance.”
“Great play and 50 really blew up the linebacker”
“They are going to have a hard time keeping 50 off the field.”
There were many more, but whether it was one-on-one or full team drills, Josh Mitchell was making the most of every rep. A much smaller 280 pounds at the time, he made up for any youthful physical shortcomings by never quitting and being quick and smart. Josh knew the playbook as well as anyone by the end of camp, and the more I watched him, the more I felt like he was the real deal. And not to toot my own horn, but I wasn’t the only one. Josh played in 10 games as a true freshman, was on the punt team, and was the primary backup at guard/center for the Beavers. While many recruitniks thought he was going to end up on the defensive side of the ball, party because of his athleticism and depth at defensive line, and partly because he was the least ballyhooed member of an impressive 2012 offensive line class, Josh was quietly making his case to be a starter sooner rather than later.
During an injury plagued 2013 season, Josh came in for his first career start against Eastern Washington and played admirably against Utah and San Diego State, while Seumalo moved around to help shore up an injury-riddled offensive line. In a season where no two weeks saw the same group of linemen for two games in a row until week seven, Josh was key in putting the Beavers in position to win six straight games.
While not a household name, Josh has continued to put the work in and has transformed his body into a solid 300-pound, all-conference caliber body. Shoulder surgery and knee pain kept him from practicing a lot during 2014. But being finally healthy and having the help of new strength and conditioning coach, Evan Simon, Josh is poised for an even better 2015. His name being on the Remington Watch List is not a fluke, and as the Beavers prepare for a new season with new coaches and a new offense, Josh is going to be key in the Beavers’ plan to start the Andersen regime off with a bowl game.
From day one, Josh has stood out to me, and as he gets ready for his final year in Corvallis, he will leave as one of my favorite Beaver offensive linemen I’ve watched. He has taken advantage of every opportunity he has had, worked hard, and done everything he could to get on the field and earn the respect of his teammates and opponents alike.
I have every confidence that Josh can not only be a finalist for the Remington Award award, but that at this time next year, there will be a reporter or pro scout or blogger that is writing, “Man, I cannot see how they can keep Mitchell off the field.” All he needs is a chance — and he has proven he will make the most of it.