Mitchell, Jackets focus on open week
Starkville quarterback Jaquez Johnson (12) receives instruction from coaches Rob Morgan (left) and Jamie Mitchell. (Kim Murrell/SDN)
Jamie Mitchell has experienced several firsts this season as the head football coach of the Starkville Yellowjackets.
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Even though Starkville doesn't have a game this week, Mitchell stills sees something new.
"This is the first open date I can ever remember having in 21 years of coaching," Mitchell said. "I may be wrong and there may have been one I can't remember."
Mitchell and his coaching staff have been studying which approach to take with the open week, but admits it comes at a good time.
"It's giving us a chance to catch our breath," Mitchell said. "What we've tried to do is really work on us and it's nice not to have any game schemes you've got to work on or game plan. We're just trying to focus on what we can do well. That's the way we are attacking it right now."
Mitchell said the main thing he's trying to accomplish with the players is getting them to realize they have to work hard even though there's no game tonight.
"The players are different," Mitchell said. "They think just because you don't play that you have an off week, but I had to explain to them real clearly that we have an open week but not an off week. It's kind of hard to keep 16- and 17-year-old guys on task when you don't play."
Another thing Mitchell has had to guard against with the Jackets has been over-confidence.
After upsetting defending Class 5A state champion West Point 21-20 last week, Mitchell has been working to bring the team back down to earth.
"They feel pretty good about themselves and that's where we as coaches come in to keep our guys grounded," Mitchell said. "That didn't just mistakenly happen Friday night. It was a result of a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to that point. We've got to realize where that came from and find a way to keep those kind of wins coming. You've got to work the way to have to get to that point."
Starkville finished its non-division schedule with a record of 2-2 and begin the Class 6A, Region 1 slate at DeSoto Central in one week.
Even though Mitchell is pleased to have won twice against two very good squads, he understands having success in division games is what gets the Jackets into the postseason.
"We've done what we've done to get to division play which is what matters," Mitchell said. "Not one thing we've done makes a hill of beans difference. What we start next Friday night is what we've worked so hard for. That's where all the chips are left on the table."
Starkville has out-gained its opponents in total offense 1,027 yards to 995 yards and has an almost 200-yard advantage over opponents on the ground at 757 yards to 575 yards.
After only four games, quarterback Jaquez Johnson has already gone over the 500-yard mark in total offense with 270 yards passing and 285 yards rushing. He has been responsible for four touchdowns.
The defense gets a boost with the return of Preston Henderson from knee surgery.
Mitchell said getting Henderson back adds leadership to the defensive side of the football and plans to move the senior from linebacker to defensive end.
"We are so thin (at defensive end) anyway he'll certainly give us a good body to go there," Mitchell said. "He'll help in leadership because he's a guy a lot of our players look up to."