The state of Arkansas has produced a lot of big-time running back prospects over the years, and there's another one on the way in the Class of 2016.
Jonesboro's Denzel Mitchell has all the makings of a guy who could join the likes of Darren McFadden, Michael Dyer, Peyton Hillis, DeAngelo Williams, Zac Brooks, Altee Tenpenny and others who were highly-rated running back prospects coming out of high schools in the Natural State.
Mitchell, 5-11, 205, 4.41, holds three early offers from Arkansas, Ole Miss and Arkansas State, while programs such as Auburn, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Clemson appear to be close to joining the list.
Jonesboro head coach Randy Coleman believes his junior-to-be has everything major college coaches are looking for in a tailback.
"When we got him he was 15 and weighed 190 pounds," Coleman said of Mitchell. "He's naturally gifted, but he's also a hard worker. Over the course of the year, maybe a little over a year now that he's been with us, he's gained 15 pounds. He weighs 205 now. He ran a 4.41 at Arkansas' camp and we've timed him at 4.39 here.
"When you're 5-11, 205 and can run like that and have the lower half that he does, combined with the work ethic he has, you get a special player. Unfortunately, this year we dealt with the high ankle sprain, and for somebody like that it's probably one of the toughest injuries to deal with. It was one of those things that just kind of kept nagging throughout the last five or six games. We expect big things from him. He's proven he can do it, and we look forward to seeing what he can do for the next two years."
Despite the injury, Mitchell still managed to rush for 1,391 yards and 9 touchdowns as a first-year starter last fall. He also caught a touchdown pass and blocked a punt for a Jonesboro program that has produced two high-quality tailbacks over the last few years.
"I would say over the last few years we've been really fortunate to have Zac Brooks followed by Martin Stafford," Coleman said. "Zac was the guy that could get out in the open and you just weren't going to catch him. He was more of an outside runner, really versatile and caught the ball well. Martin was a between-the-tackles guy that could carry it 30 times a game if he had to.
"Denzel's really the combination of both. He's highly-skilled, he catches the ball well, and we know the speed he has so when he gets in the open there's very few people that can catch him. But he's a between the tackles kind of guy, as well."
The in-state Razorbacks extended their scholarship offer on November 5 and have let it be known Mitchell is one of their top priorities in 2016.
"I think Denzel is perfect for that offense," Coleman said. "He's one of those old school running backs in an I-formation that carries it 25 times a game. I just think he's that guy."
The Jonesboro head coach also had nothing but positive things to say about Arkansas head man Bret Bielema and the foundation he's setting in Fayetteville.
"First of all, I think Coach Bielema gets it. He understands that sometimes you've got to stick your neck out there in order to make progress, and I respect a man that's not afraid to do that," Coleman said. "Secondly, he has been nothing but great anytime I've been on campus or he's been on our campus. He was great with kids that wanted pictures in the cafeteria, secretaries that wanted pictures in the office, he was just first class all the way. He's got a charisma about him that you understand how he's gotten to the point he's gotten to.
"I think if everybody will be patient and let him get the guys that he needs to fit his system, both offensively and defensively, he's going to do some special things."