USC's Mitchell working his way back into '100-percent mode" after missing '13 season
AUG 17, 2014 12:16a ET
Steven Mitchell was a constant at Howard Jones Field in the spring of 2013. He'd recently signed with USC. Even though he was unable to participate in spring practices because he wasn't enrolled in school, he still would visit the sessions on a frequent basis.
The wide receiver often was found in the middle of the field, digesting the Trojans' offense with head coach Lane Kiffin.
It was believed to be a foregone conclusion that Mitchell, who had 62 catches for 1,100 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior at Bishop Alemany High School (Mission Hills, Calif.) in 2012, would come in and provide the USC offense with an instant impact from the slot as the team's third wide receiver.
Those plans were derailed when Mitchell suffered a torn ACL while participating in summer drills with the team.
His 2013 season was done before it got started.
"It had to be deflating (for him)," USC wide receivers coach Tee Martin said. "That was the biggest major injury he had ever had and it takes you away (from football) for a year. You can't do what the other guys are doing. You're in the training room while they're having a good time. That's tough."
Now the road to recovery for Mitchell continues as USC carries on through fall camp.
Mitchell, who's been cleared to resume all football activities, practices with the team and then heads to the training room to ice and massage his knee.
Through the first two weeks of training camp, head coach Steve Sarkisian has been careful not to push Mitchell's reps.
All signs point to Mitchell being well, but just over 13 months removed from major knee surgery, the redshirt freshman doesn't quite feel like himself.
"I been out for a whole year so by body is just trying to progress back into that 100-percent mode," Mitchell said.
He's trying to get there, though, and he's willing. Martin sees the eagerness every day in practice.
"He knows where he wants to be and he's trying to will himself to that and it's good to see," Martin said. "Steven is really trying hard. He wants more reps. I'm like 'Dude, I'm trying to get you out there.' He wants to be a part of it. He wants to get hit. He wants everything because he wants to be a part of what we're doing. So, as these last two weeks go by we'll see where he's at ultimately leading up to the game (against Fresno State)."
Mitchell's services will be needed in 2014. The Trojans are expected to run a lot of four wide-receiver sets at breakneck pace. After two weeks, Mitchell has spent a good amount of time with the second group as he tries to work himself back into football shape.
With the regular-season opener now two weeks away, Mitchell will have to move quickly if he wants to join the first team.