Mitchell Q&A: An in-depth look at Florida football from a player perspective

An inside look at Florida football

by Inside the Gators Staff
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In today’s world of college football the Transfer Portal allows players to freely move from program to program. After spending five years at Ohio State linebacker Teradja Mitchell took advantage of the transfer rules to move to Florida. That inturn offered him the opportunity to earn a degree from two of the top public universities in the country while also allowing him to experience the highs and lows of college football.

Mitchell shared his thoughts on Florida football, Billy Napier, and the differences between the two football programs in this exclusive interview with Inside the Gators.

You were offered by Florida coming out of high school in the Class of 2018, but how much were the Gators actually involved? What coaches did you speak with? What was your impression of UF?

Early on in my recruiting process, Florida was one of the schools that I heavily considered. They were in my top 10 schools during the process. I was offered by Coach T [Torrian] Gray. We had developed a pretty good rapport early on, but I ultimately ended up narrowing down my schools pretty quick and never got a chance to visit campus during high school. Growing up Florida was always the team I’d make a dynasty with on the earlier NCAA football games and I’d always watch them play on Saturdays. My brother, Terry Mitchell Jr., was Percy Harvin’s quarterback at Landstown, so I always kept up with his career at UF. The tradition, history, and demeanor the Gators played with always sparked my interest and made them one of the schools I wouldn’t mind playing for during my high school days.

You signed with Ohio State and you were there for Urban Meyer’s final season. What was he like when you were being recruited and as a freshman?

What’s crazy is that I initially had very little interest in Ohio State. I had always imagined myself playing in the SEC growing up as a kid. Ohio State came into the equation when they offered after my freshman year of high school. I was personally recruited by Coach Zach Smith and Coach Meyer. One of the things that I always respected about Coach Meyer during the recruiting process and what ultimately separated him from other coaches, was that he always kept it real with me. He and the rest of the staff were genuine throughout the entire process. They developed a real relationship with my family and me, and Coach Meyer went the extra mile to let me know he was interested. He didn’t sugar coat anything and I’ll always remember him telling me that coming to Ohio State wasn’t going to be a path of sunshine and rainbows, coming to Ohio State meant that I’d be choosing the hard path to greatness. As a player who was always about the work, that stuck with me big time and ultimately led to me committing early as a junior in highschool. My freshman year at Ohio State was a hell of an experience. Coach Meyer meant everything he said about it being a hard path (laughing). It was great though, he was the same guy he was prior to me signing. Coach Meyer ran a tight ship and demanded excellence out of all of us. There was a method to his madness, and I will forever be grateful for the standard he held us to. It ultimately changed all of us for the better. Rather it was on or off the field, Coach Meyer did everything in his control to make sure we mentally prepared for challenges. He is definitely one of the greatest coaches of all time and I still keep in contact with him to this day.

There were also other former Gators’ support staff members such as Mark Pantoni and Mickey Marotti there. What were your impressions of those two?

I have great respect and love for both Pantoni and Coach Mick. Two unsung heroes at both UF and tOSU. In all honesty, they deserve a statue or something. Pantoni is elite at finding the talent, and Coach Mick is elite at developing and enhancing the talent. Coach Mick was actually one of the coaches on staff who I gravitated towards the most at tOSU and was a big reason as to why I ended up committing. The videos that the people see on Swamp Kings don’t serve justice of actually how hard his workouts were, I’ve seen some grown men cry. That man is in the facility every day at 4 a.m. to make sure everything is ready. One of the most consistent people I’ve met in terms of preparation and energy. He helped a lot of us realize that championships aren’t built during the season, they are built in January during mat drills and team runs.

You transfer from the Buckeyes to the Gators. Why leave OSU at that point and what made UF an appealing destination?

Leaving Ohio State was one of the hardest decisions and it was honestly a decision I didn’t want to make. I gave my literal blood, sweat, and tears to that program. However, you have to make grown man decisions in this business of football to make dreams come true. I am very grateful for how Coach [Ryan] Day handled my decision. He allowed me to finish the season with the guys. While I was in the portal, he let me practice, take any visits I needed, and even play in the playoff game vs Georgia. My transfer portal process was fortunately quick and short-lived. As soon as I entered the portal, the first coach to contact me was Coach Jay Bateman. Coach Bateman and I already had an established relationship prior, from high school. He coached my high school coach back in the day and had been around a lot during my high school years. After finally visiting Florida for the first time, I immediately knew that was the right place for me. Meeting Coach Napier and the rest of the staff for the first time, they immediately made me feel like family. I had a great first talk with Coach Napier, and quickly realized we shared the same beliefs and values on how the game of football is supposed to be played, as we both come from two other prestigious programs in Ohio State and Alabama. After that talk, I committed on the spot and shut down my process. As a 6th year, I could care less about the glitz and glamor of the recruiting process, I just wanted to talk football.

Not only did you play for two top DI programs, but you attended two of the top Public Universities in the US. Obviously, OSU is in much better shape right now, but what are some things that you think that the Gators do better than the Buckeyes?

I got major bragging rights when it comes to UF and tOSU. Not too many people say they got the opportunity to play football and graduate from two prestigious universities. One of the major and more important things that UF has tOSU beat in would be resources. When I say resources, I don’t just mean the state-of-the-art football facility. Coach Napier has what seems like 100+ people on his staff to help support the student-athlete. Ohio State does a great job with it as well, but I feel as if UF devotes and emphasizes it more. I honestly feel like there is zero reason for any player at UF to say they have a lack of resources. From the academic support staff, GatorMade, Florida Victorious, athletic trainers, etc. Coach Napier has done an outstanding job in making sure that the guys have everything they need to succeed and thrive in the college football environment. People just see game days on Saturdays, but there is A LOT more that goes into the everyday college life that the majority of 18-20 year olds aren’t prepared for and Florida does a great job of ensuring that athletes have everything they need.

In your five years at Ohio State the Buckeyes lost seven games total. In your one season at Florida, the Gators lost seven games. What was it like for you to go from a winning program to one that has been in a three-year tailspin?

It was very frustrating. That was actually the most games I’ve lost in a season in my football career EVER. What made it more frustrating, was that we worked really hard as a group. We had some grueling practices trying to make things right. One thing I’ve learned in my six-year collegiate career is that working hard doesn’t guarantee a damn thing, it just gives you a really good chance. Execution is the only thing that has a guarantee. You either do or you don’t. As a group, players and coaches, we failed to execute when it mattered and our record reflected that. Especially in a conference like the SEC, with the schedule Florida has, execution is going to be everything. The great thing is that I think the guys started to see that near the end of the season. It comes at a point as a competitor, where those losses turn to battle scars, you get sick of feeling that losing feeling, and you get a little bit of controlled desperation to win and execute. It’s some real competitors and leaders in that locker room that I KNOW are at that point, which is why I feel confident they will turn it around.

This question was posed on our message board, and I think it is interesting. We hear it talked about so much, but to you, what is culture on a football team? What is winning culture? How did the culture at OSU compare to UF and how were they different?

The culture of a team is everything, a team’s culture is going to be directly reflected in the record. You can have the most talented team in the world, if the culture is flawed, there’s going to be chinks in the armor that’ll come back to haunt you down the road. It can’t just be a few players, everyone has to buy into the culture and you establish the culture and identity of your team during January. I’ve been blessed to be a part of some elite teams at Ohio State, and as corny and cliche as it sounds, that identity/culture has to be built on the foundation of love and player accountability. At tOSU we had a saying, “Long Live The Brotherhood”. It was real, guys weren’t playing for themselves. They were playing for the teammate next to them, that they were on the verge of passing out with during mat drills. The effort and attention to detail look different when you’re doing it for yourself vs someone you love. We also held each other accountable as players, it shouldn’t be a coach having to do it. I think those are the subtle but major differences that separate a championship-contending team from the rest.

Here in the offseason Florida made a change in their strength and conditioning program. Talk a little about what the S&C program was like at OSU compared to UF last year. What were some major differences?

It looks like the guys are getting after it and enjoying the new program. I’m excited to see how it’ll translate to the field. Some of the major differences between the programs come from the two different styles of coaching and objectives. In my experience, Ohio State puts more emphasis on mental toughness and pushing yourself past mental blocks while UF puts more emphasis on sports science. For example, when I got to UF there were some lifts that I had to learn because I had never done them at tOSU. Then in contrast, at UF there’s no “Beat TUN” type of workout where your capacity to strain past exhaustion is put to the test. Don’t get me wrong, both programs are physically taxing or nowhere near easy but I’d say there were different objectives and priorities. Which is typical, each team has their specific needs and goals each off-season.

Last summer you came in from Ohio State and RJ Moten came in from Michigan. For those outside the south, that might be the most hated rivalry in sports. What was it like to be teammates with him? Was there still a friendly rivalry? What do you think of his move to linebacker?

We didn’t speak when we first met, we just nodded our heads at each other. There was definitely a little bit of tension at first but after a while, he ended up being one of my closest teammates at UF. We still talk trash to each other to this day and we’ll probably always call each other the Saturday after Thanksgiving every year to do a little friendly bet and argue. I’m excited to see what he does in the box, I think he’s going to go crazy. He’s never been scared to throw his body in there and he has the athleticism to cover sideline to sideline.

Who are some under-the-radar Florida players that you believe have a chance to breakout next season?

Some of the players that come to my mind are TJ Searcy, Andy Jean, and Treyaun Webb. They showed flashes of being great players during a lot of practices and some games last year. I’ve seen those guys put in a lot of work after hours and I’m excited to see it all come together for them, especially Andy Jean, he was always in the facility doing extra.

What are your thoughts on Billy Napier as a person and a coach? Compare the OSU staff to the UF staff.

I love Coach Napier. After our first conversation, it’s been nothing but love. His demeanor and love for the game is special. He lives and breathes football. I know our fans at UF have really high standards, and rightfully so, but I think Coach Napier is steering the ship in the right direction. He has been a part of multiple national championship teams and he knows what it takes to get there, it’s just a matter of when. They have a crazy schedule next year, but that’s just more of an opportunity for coach and the guys to make a statement. The staffs are very similar, both have coaches that care about their players and dedicate their life to the game. UF’s staff was a little bit younger and had more energy than the OSU staff, though. Look at Coach [Austin] Armstrong for example, he is only seven years older than me (laughing).

This may sound silly on the surface because of the overall success Day has had as the Buckeyes’s head coach, but a three-game losing streak to Michigan has OSU fans up in arms. Three years from now, who is more likely to still be the coach at their present school, Day at Ohio State or Napier at Florida?

I hope that they both thrive and are able to keep their jobs but if I had to choose. I’d say three years from now, I think Coach Day has a higher probability of being the head coach at his respective school out of the two. I’m just going off statistics, Coach Day is 56-8 at Ohio State and Coach Napier is 11-14 at Florida. I honestly think people that think Coach Day should be on the hot seat are delirious. I understand that beating TUN is without a doubt the #1 goal, but I do not believe he should be on the hot seat for what has happened the past three years. I think Ohio State will win it all this year and those hot-seat rumors dissipate.

Go to discussion...

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12 comments

  1. Why would their fans want to get rid of Day just because he lost to Michigan but beats almost every other team.

    We can't meet any of our rivals and we haven't for a few years.

    If Day was available we should scoop him up in a heartbeat.
  2. Look at the ways he thinks that we are better than Ohio State and tell me why we can\'t win more.

    If coach gets fired do the things like Gator Made stay with us and keep going or does it go with him?
  3. Look at the ways he thinks that we are better than Ohio State and tell me why we can\'t win more.

    If coach gets fired do the things like Gator Made stay with us and keep going or does it go with him?
    I hope Napier is successful here for a myriad of reasons, but if it does not work out, I would take Day in a heartbeat. He was here for one year (2005), so it would not be a total culture shock for him. BUT, lets hope Coach Nape wins a minimum of 8 games in the regular season this year, because I believe he would be on his way to success.
  4. What do we need all these computers and different equipment for when the proven method is to do presses and lifts. Bench press, squat, clean, clean and press.

    Princely Umanmielen said the same thing about our weight program.

    We didn't learn shit.

    Do we think we know better than OSU? Check out their record and check out ours.
  5. I hope Napier is successful here for a myriad of reasons, but if it does not work out, I would take Day in a heartbeat. He was here for one year (2005), so it would not be a total culture shock for him. BUT, lets hope Coach Nape wins a minimum of 8 games in the regular season this year, because I believe he would be on his way to success.
    If Day had any interest in us we should fire Stricklin and Napier at the same moment and give Day a 10 year deal the next moment.

    He would automatically have us as one of the top 3 teams in the SEC year after year in in the playoffs almost every year.
  6. What do we need all these computers and different equipment for when the proven method is to do presses and lifts. Bench press, squat, clean, clean and press.

    Princely Umanmielen said the same thing about our weight program.

    We didn't learn shit.

    Do we think we know better than OSU? Check out their record and check out ours.
    That all was under Hoche. I think or I hope we changed with this new coach.

    The rest of it was pretty cool to read. He thinks we have the programs in place to win here.
  7. If Day had any interest in us we should fire Stricklin and Napier at the same moment and give Day a 10 year deal the next moment.

    He would automatically have us as one of the top 3 teams in the SEC year after year in in the playoffs almost every year.
    I'm not sure he would be able to recruit as well as UF as he has at Ohio State. Those guys are on a roll and have lots of NFL success lately and lots of on the field success lately, and lots and lots of money and an administration that cares about football.

    Day is obviously a good coach and almost certainly an upgrade over Napier but he has benefited alot from being the Big Ten, as did Meyer. Up until 2024, they only play two games a year that they have the potential to lose. They've had at least 10 wins banked before the season starts. It would be much more difficult in the SEC.

    Even this year the only two games on their schedule they could possibly lose are Michigan and at Oregon. Michigan should take a big step backwards this year maybe it's just one game with any intrigue.
  8. I'm not sure he would be able to recruit as well as UF as he has at Ohio State. Those guys are on a roll and have lots of NFL success lately and lots of on the field success lately, and lots and lots of money and an administration that cares about football.

    Day is obviously a good coach and almost certainly an upgrade over Napier but he has benefited alot from being the Big Ten, as did Meyer. Up until 2024, they only play two games a year that they have the potential to lose. They've had at least 10 wins banked before the season starts. It would be much more difficult in the SEC.

    Even this year the only two games on their schedule they could possibly lose are Michigan and at Oregon. Michigan should take a big step backwards this year maybe it's just one game with any intrigue.
    For all of the right reasons and possibly a few of the wrong reasons, Day would be Urban 2.0 I would take him in a heartbeat to be our HBC.
  9. He sounds like he had a good experience with us even if he lost more games than he ever had before.
    It's cool how he has two schools to pull for and showed both of them respect here.
  10. He said that he had to learn new exercises that we do that he never did at Ohio State.

    Why can't we just do what regular football teams do?
    The same reason we don't walk everywhere we go or rub sticks together to make fire.

    Technology.

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