How Osirus Mitchell became one of Nick Fitzgerald's favorite targets at Mississippi State

Tyler Horka
Mississippi Clarion Ledger
Mississippi State wide receiver Osirus Mitchell (87) runs past Stephen F. Austin safety Chris James (4) for a 84-yard touchdown pass reception during the first half of their NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

STARKVILLE – Osirus Mitchell sat alone in the Mississippi State football facility.

He wasn’t sulking over the Bulldogs’ recent 28-7 loss to Kentucky. This solitary reflection period happened long before last Saturday night.

The redshirt sophomore receiver studied the playbook and worked out by himself plenty over the summer. Mitchell said it’s the best offseason he’s had since he started playing football.

Senior offensive lineman Deion Calhoun witnessed Mitchell’s self-improvement sessions. Calhoun has been a part of the program since 2014, so he knows when a guy is giving extra effort to be his best.  

“Osirus put in work the whole summer,” Calhoun said. “Starting since the first game, it showed up. I’m very proud of him.”

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Mitchell had two catches for 114 yards in the season opener against Stephen F. Austin. Both snags went for touchdowns.

Not many saw that coming two months ago. ‘Not many’ doesn’t include Mitchell.

He said he hasn’t taken one day for granted since the final whistle blew at the end of State’s 2017 season.

“I got better every day I could,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell leads the team in both receptions (9) and receiving yards (184). Stephen Guidry drew more attention after transferring from junior college and redshirt freshman Austin Williams garnered most of the praise from the coaching staff leading into the season.

It’s been Mitchell, though, who has been senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald’s favorite target. Fitzgerald said Mitchell is not only big and tall — standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing nearly 200 pounds — but fast as well. That’s a lethal combination of attributes for a wideout.

“He’ll go up and make a play on a ball,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s smart and he plays really hard. It’s good to have him step up and fill that role that we needed.”

Against Kentucky, in a game in which nearly everything went wrong for Mississippi State, Mitchell still had success. He had six catches for 65 yards, the most receptions in a game this season by any State receiver.

Sep 22, 2018; Lexington, KY, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs wide receiver Osirus Mitchell (87) fights for yards against the Kentucky Wildcats in the first half at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Mitchell has come a long way since his redshirt season in 2016 and his five-catch, 51-yard campaign last season. Head coach Joe Moorhead said Mitchell is simply the right fit for the offensive scheme MSU runs.

“I think he provides a good horizontal threat,” Moorhead said. “He can blow the top off a coverage, and he does a good job in the intermediate stuff as well.”

The intermediate catches are what the Bulldogs need going forward. When the run game gets bottled up the way it did against Kentucky, Fitzgerald is tasked with moving the chains with his arm.

State shouldn’t feel comfortable with Fitzgerald slinging it 20 yards downfield on third-and-medium, given that he’s a 54.9 percent career passer. Mitchell said he did a nice job of attacking the ball against the Wildcats, which is key on mid-range throws over the middle.

Mitchell said he’ll do his job to the best of his ability no matter what play is called. If the rushing attack runs into more roadblocks as it did in Lexington, Mitchell might be called upon to make game-changing receptions.

Moorhead knows that, and he’ll take those plays from Mitchell or any of the other Bulldog receivers. Based on Mitchell’s performances this season, it might be best for them to follow his lead to meet Moorhead’s goals.

“We need to continue to have our receiving corps developed to help us in the stretch run in the SEC," Moorhead said.

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