Brian Mitchell didn't plan on being a college football coach. It just happened.
"Coaching was never something I felt would be in my future," said Mitchell, 26, who is BYU coach LaVell Edwards' newest and youngest full-time assistant. "In fact there are only two places I would ever want to coach - here (at BYU) and at my old high school, Waco (Texas) High."Now Mitchell, the ex-Cougar and Atlanta Falcon defensive back, has his work cut out for him. He's in charge of the Cougar cornerbacks, a position that was hit hard when three would-be contributors (James Heggins, Greg Steele and James Humes) were expelled from school during the summer for breaking BYU's honor code. Heggins and Steele had a year of experience at BYU under their belts, while Humes participated in spring practices after a stellar career at Dixie College.
Yet Mitchell, who replaced DeWayne Walker last month after Walker took an assistant coaching job at Oklahoma State, says it may make his job easier not to have the trio returning.
"If I would have had those three guys back, I think it would have been a lot tougher because they're used to the way Coach Walker did things," Mitchell said. "Most of the guys we have now - six of the eight - are new to the position of corner at BYU. They're learning things for the first time from me, and that makes my job a lot easier."
The only returning cornerback with any significant major college experience to speak of is Dermmell Reed, who was a starter last season. Reed says he's had little trouble adjusting to Mitchell's style.
"Brian's new to the system, but I can tell he's going to be a great coach," Reed said. "He's let us know that he wants us to give it our all and he'll accept that, but if we're not giving it our all, he'll make us pay."
Reed said Mitchell's youth and his three years in the NFL will help him relate to the players. Reed and Mitchell became friends when they had a class together last year when Mitchell was finishing up his degree in social work.
How Mitchell's cornerbacks develop could be a key to the Cougars' success in the pass-happy WAC. He expects his troops, though low in numbers, will get the job done.
"Our depth is shot, but we have two new guys (transfers Tim McTyer and James Dye) that are faster than Steele, Heggins and Humes were," said Mitchell, who had 13 interceptions in his two-plus seasons as a Cougar starter from 1988-90. "We don't have experience and depth, but we do have good athletic ability. I'm happy with the guys we have. I wish we had another guy or two, but I look back to when I was here. We didn't have a lot depth then either, but we got the job done."
Unlike Walker, who spent just one season in Provo before moving on to a greener (as in more lucrative) coaching pasture, Mitchell expects to stay at BYU awhile - unless he decides to change professions.
"This is the ultimate coaching job for me," he says. "I'm not looking to move on to another college or the NFL. I'm just looking to be a mentor to some young men and hopefully help them become better football players and people."