Van Horn quarterback Shaun Ross turned a lot of heads for a much improved Van Horn football team last fall.
The dynamic signal caller made a name for himself with his electrifying runs where he would dodge several would-be tacklers for long touchdowns. The senior helped Van Horn to a 7-4 record and its first district playoff win in program history.
Now that Ross, a Missouri Football Coaches Association third-team all-state selection as an athlete, has graduated and he’s on the roster at Fort Hays State, the Falcons will turn the page and will go with a different style quarterback than Ross.
Junior Sean Mitchell Jr., who took a handful of snaps in varsity games last season, is expected to step in and take over as the Falcons’ starting quarterback. His style is different from Ross, as he doesn’t plan on taking off running nearly as much as his predecessor did.
“We run a little bit of a read option offense,” Mitchell said. “(Scrambling and running) will come with time. I will slowly develop the running game, getting five yards every once in awhile.
“I don’t think I will have any explosive 80-yard runs to the house like Shaun did.”
Mitchell, who played quarterback some in middle school, said he views himself more as a pocket passer. On Tuesday, he was practicing moving in the pocket, staying in between a set of cones and firing the ball to one of Van Horn’s assistant coaches.
He’s a year removed from being a player who wore many hats for the Falcons. In 2018, he served as the team’s punter, place kicker and safety and could potentially retain all of those roles while still playing quarterback this fall.
“I like to say playing free safety is like being the quarterback of the defense,” Mitchell said. “I am just transitioning my knowledge from defense over to offense. I can still read the defense, so that will make it a little easier to recognize what the defense is doing.”
Van Horn head coach William Harris said that Mitchell has looked good so far this summer and feels like he’s a good fit for what the team likes to do on offense.
“The last couple of weeks, he’s gotten a lot better,” Harris said. “He’s gotten more comfortable, especially after the start of the summer. We knew he was going to be our quarterback of the future unless something drastic happened.
“We know we have a chance with him. We just have to develop him and hone his skills a little bit.”
However, if there’s one thing Mitchell wants to improve on, it’s being consistent.
“I started off really sloppy because I wasn’t used to (playing quarterback),” Mitchell said. “But I am starting to pick it up a little more and being more consistent with my throws.
“I am working on my footwork and pocket presence and knowing when the pocket is going to collapse and getting the ball where it needs to be.”
He even got some tips from Ross last season.
“He told me not to be afraid to throw the ball or be scared of an incompletion,” Mitchell said. “He told me not to think about making mistakes.”
If he can do that, Mitchell might be just what the Falcons need to operate their offense.
“(Mitchell) plays to our strengths,” Harris said. “(Shaun) was a willing runner and (Mitchell) is a willing passer. He’s not Shaun Ross by any stretch of the imagination, but he can be effective running the ball.
“I think he’s a little ahead of Shaun passing the ball. What we had in Shaun’s feet, we’ll have with Sean Mitchell’s arm. That will allow our offense to be explosive.”
He will have some solid weapons at his disposal. The Falcons return the speedy Drevion Downton and the 6-foot-4 Caleb Tanis. He will also have track star Arlandes Mitchell, who could serve as a deep threat.
“If I want to push the ball I can throw it (Arlandes’) way, he’s an all-state 4x100 runner,” Miitchell said. “And Caleb is tall, he plays basketball. He will be a nice target.”
Added Harris: “I know it sounds crazy, because Shaun was so electric, but I think our offense will take a step forward. Because we have enough weapons on the edge, we’ll be tough to defend.”
With that kind of talent around him, Mitchell has set a big goal for himself.
“Winning games is always important, but I want to get at least 20 passing touchdowns,” he said. “I think that’s a decent goal to start off with.”