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Texas LB Juwan Mitchell drops weight to improve speed

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The first full offseason with the Longhorns has paid dividends for the junior college transfer.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Alamo Bowl - Utah v Texas Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Texas Longhorns fans will see a new Juwan Mitchell on the field this fall.

Following an offseason that featured the junior linebacker’s entrance into and withdrawal from the NCAA transfer portal and the public claim that he didn’t feel comfortable representing the university, Mitchell has still been working hard on his craft behind the scenes.

A late addition to the 2019 recruiting class from Butler Community College in Kansas who was a one-time Syracuse signee, Mitchell didn’t have much time to work with Texas strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight before starting his sophomore season on the Forty Acres.

Former defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said that Mitchell lost close to 10 pounds after his arrival, but it took a full offseason — even with the loss of spring practice due to the coronavirus pandemic — for the New Jersey native to really reshape his body, something that Orlando perceived as critical to Mitchell’s development.

By dropping that 15 pounds of body fat, Mitchell should be able to improve on two keys areas to maximize his potential — his movement ability to range from sideline to sideline and to get to the right spots on his pass drops.

Mitchell already moved well enough that he made four pass breakups last season, but now that he has one season of college football behind him and improved speed, those plays could turn into interceptions this season or just force quarterbacks to hold onto the ball longer.

Paired with the instincts that so impressed Orlando, Mitchell could take control of the middle linebacker position in his competition with redshirt sophomore Ayodele Adeoye.

“He’s got really good vision and instincts,” Orlando said. “He’s just instinctive. That’s the one thing that he does, and then when he makes a decision, he just puts his foot in the ground and goes. There’s never any hesitation with him.”

Mitchell already proved his physicality, too, providing him with the two attributes that new linebackers coach Coleman Hutzler most values at his position.

So don’t be surprised if Mitchell becomes a full-time starter this year and has a breakout season after five starts in 2019 that produced 39 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks, including five tackles in the Alamo Bowl after Mitchell was benched in favor of walk-on Cort Jaquess.