Another assistant leaves Gophers football staff

Michael Dougherty

Former Gophers running backs coach Reggie Mitchell is the second of Minnesota head coach Glen Mason’s assistants to leave the program this week.
Steve Axman, former quarterbacks coach, left last weekend for the offensive coordinator position at Washington.
Mitchell, 38, is now the wide receivers coach at Michigan State, ending a 12-year stint as an assistant under Mason.
A native of Flint, Mich., Mitchell was hired by Spartans coach Nick Saban to replace Charlie Baggett, who resigned Feb. 8 to become the wide receivers coach for the Green Bay Packers.
Mitchell and Mason’s relationship began when Mitchell was hired as wide receivers coach under Mason at Kent State in 1987.
“It’s a homecoming of sorts for Reggie Mitchell,” Saban said. “Reggie comes highly recommended by a few of our assistant coaches who worked with him at Kansas. He’s a talented young coach and a solid recruiter.”
Mitchell was given credit for recruiting St. Paul Johnson running back Thomas Tapeh, the marquee name on this year’s list of Gophers signee’s.
Minnesota junior and All-Big Ten running back Thomas Hamner, the Gophers leading rusher the past three seasons, said he was surprised by Mitchell’s departure. He said he first heard a rumor about it last Friday from Gophers punter Ryan Rindels.
Hamner said he didn’t know whether the rumor had any validity, so he asked some of the other assistant coaches, but found out nothing. Mason finally made an official announcement to the team on Monday, which Hamner said was disappointing.
“It surprised me, I didn’t even know, I just showed up for our winter conditioning and he wasn’t there,” Hamner said. “He taught me a lot of things about this game both physically and mentally, and he taught me that there was a right way to go about doing things.
“And I found that was funny, because for him to just leave without at least coming to talk to me about it, I felt like that was a little contradictory. But I’m not mad at him, I just felt like he could have come to me as a man and as my coach and told me he was leaving.”
Mitchell’s exit is similar to Axman’s. Just as Hamner was surprised about his coach leaving, Gophers quarterback Andy Persby said he was shocked to hear about Axman’s departure.
Mitchell, meanwhile, said he is looking forward to working for what he called “one of the elite programs in the Big Ten.” He also said it is a big honor to work for Saban.
The Spartans were 6-6 last year, including a 19-18 loss to the Gophers at the Metrodome in October. Mitchell said he will have two great receivers in Gari Scott and Plaxico Burress to work with.
“Those guys can make a coach look pretty good,” Mitchell said.