May 7, 2011

2011 CFL Canadian Draft preview


TORONTO — There are no more drills, no more interviews and no more questions for Scott Mitchell to answer.

All the Rice offensive lineman can do now is sit and wait and wonder where he’ll begin his professional football career.

The six-foot-four, 295-pound offensive tackle will be anxiously listening to hear his name called Sunday at the CFL’s annual Canadian draft (TSN, 12:30 p.m. ET). And the expectation is Mitchell won’t have to wait long as he’ll head into the weekend as the top-ranked prospect, according to the CFL scouting bureau.

“The waiting is frustrating because before you had some control,” Mitchell said in a telephone interview Friday from Houston. “When you were training for the evaluation camp or performing in the drills you had control over that.

“But now, you’re sitting on the sidelines letting other people decide your fate and you can’t do anything to help your stock or change their minds. You’ve done all you can and ultimately that decision is up to someone else.”

TSN will broadcast the first two rounds of the draft with CFL commissioner Mark Cohon announcing the selections. Following the second round, TSN will provide live streaming coverage of the third to sixth round on its website (

Mitchell, a Montreal native who grew up in Ottawa, is a bona-fide first-round selection. He started 38 straight games at Rice before a foot injury in the eighth week of the season ended his collegiate career.

At the CFL’s evaluation camp in March, Mitchell showed no ill effects of the foot injury, impressing with his versatility by effectively playing at centre, guard and tackle in drills. However his 18 reps in the 225-pound bench press was second-worst among offensive linemen at the camp.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have the first overall selection and have spoken to the top three prospects ranked on their draft board, which includes Mitchell. But the prevailing talk right now is the club will take St. Francis Xavier linebacker Henoc Muamba, Canadian university football’s top defensive player last season, with the No. 1 selection.

“Going in the first round would definitely be good enough for me,” Mitchell said. “It would be amazing to go one and one (first overall draft pick after being ranked first overall by CFL scouting bureau) to have that and be able to carry that with you for the rest of your life.

“The thing is I gave everything I had at E-camp and I did my training the best I could . . . it’s just out of my hands.”

The Edmonton Eskimos and B.C. Lions have the second and third picks before Winnipeg would select again at No. 4, a selection acquired from the Toronto Argonauts for quarterback Stephen Jyles. But the Bombers are entertaining potential trade offers for their second first-round pick.

On Friday, the Bombers were in a dealing mood, acquiring a conditional 2012 sixth-round pick from Edmonton for defensive back LaVar Glover. Glover appeared in 12 games last season with Winnipeg, registering 34 tackles and two interceptions.

As for Mitchell, he’s just looking forward to hearing his name called Sunday and embarking on a pro career.

“(Knowing where he’ll be playing in the CFL) will be a huge relief,” Mitchell said. “Right now, I’m just sitting here hearing a whole lot of different things.

“I’m just kind of waiting for this chapter in my life to end and being able to move on to the next one.”

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are scheduled to make the fifth overall selection, followed by the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders before the Grey Cup-champion Montreal Alouettes finishes off the first round.

Toronto won’t make its first pick until the fourth selection of the second round, 12th overall.

The team that is poised to help itself a lot is Calgary, which has four of the top 14 selections (sixth, ninth, 11th and 14th overall). Not too shabby for a club that posted a CFL-best 13-5 record last season.

Calgary Dinos receiver Anthony Parker is the second-ranked draft prospect ahead of Muamba. Baylor offensive lineman Phillip Blake is No. 4 but is returning to school this fall, as are Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Holmes (No. 5) and UConn lineman Moe Petrus (No. 10). Former Western Mustangs defensive lineman Vaughn Martin is ranked No. 6 but is currently under contract with the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.

There will be no shortage of adjustments for Mitchell and the other prospects to make following the draft when football becomes their full-time job. There’s dealing with the continued weight of expectation, putting in the time to prepare week in and week out, striving to continually improve and get better and being able to successfully balance the euphoria of success with the disappointment of failure and learning lessons from both.

But one of the biggest adjustments a player makes in the CFL is playing an 18-game regular season.

“That’s a lot more games and a really long season,” said Mitchell, who routinely played 12 games a year at Rice. “What I’m trying to prepare for the most isn’t the mental aspect because I’ve been playing football since I was six years old and when I was younger I played on multiple teams at the same time so I’ve played a lot of football.

“The big thing is preparing myself physically because what’s hard about the CFL is it’s an 18-game season so that’s 18 games you have to stay healthy for. I’m trying to get my body as strong and powerful and explosive as I can be because eventually during the course of the season it’s going to wear down.”

Still, it’s an adjustment Mitchell will readily make in order to realize the dream of being a pro football player.

“I grew up a CFL fan,” he said. “I was born in Montreal and went to Alouettes games and when I was in Ottawa I had Renegades season tickets when they were there.

“At this point it doesn’t matter to me where I go. I’m just ready to hear my name called and go there for the next chapter in my life.”