- Radi Nabulsi, Reporter, DawgNation
SUWANEE, Ga. -- Sophomore offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt was tested early in his high school career. In the spring of his freshman year he was thrown to the wolves against the rising seniors on his North Gwinnett (Ga.) High School team. He not only survived, but he came out of spring the starting left tackle on a team that had ESPN 300 offensive tackle DeVondre Seymour as an option for the coveted spot.
Hyatt’s first game as a starter had him lining up against one of the Peach State’s toughest defenses in Rush Probst’s Colquitt County squad. North Gwinnett won that game and Hyatt turned a lot of heads. Later on in the state playoffs the Bulldogs would defeat Grayson (Ga.) High School -- home of the nation’s No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche. Hyatt frustrated Nkemdiche and had the five-star defensive tackle trying every trick in his vast arsenal to get past the young offensive lineman.
Hyatt’s performances have already garnered him offers from Florida, Ohio State, South Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina and Miami (Fla).
“Mitch had a tremendous sophomore year,” North Gwinett coach Bob Sphire said. “He just got better and better week to week. Physically he’s now up to about 6-foot-6 and he is probably 265 pounds. He plays basketball, he’s got great feet, he’s got great balance, and he really protects our quarterback. He’s tough, he’s physical. If he were hurt you probably wouldn’t know it.”
Hyatt exudes an old-school, smash-mouth, just-rub-dirt-on-it mentality and it shows on the field.
“I’ll tell you it’s funny, the first day of spring last year, he’s a freshman, and we were going in pads, and we’re not too long into practice when we get into Oklahoma drills,” Sphire said. “The intensity level is crazy. We’ve got this sophomore, Anree Saint-Amour, who’s going to be a great defensive end. He’s got that work gene just like Mitch does -- they’ve got no quit in them -- and when they lined up against each other in a drill like that, it was basically to the death.”
Hyatt also prepared for his breakout season by hammering daily on ESPN Watch List defensive end Dante Sawyer.
“It’s a challenge, but I’m happy to go against him because it is like a game situation,” Hyatt said. “Definitely a lot of scars, especially from spring football. I got banged up a lot.”
The standout tackle delivered as many bruises as he received though as Sawyer was quick to point out.
“I don't think surgery will be able to fix my fingers,” Sawyer said of their collisions.
Hyatt said he gets his football talent from his parents and likely his uncle, who played for Clemson. That will help the Tigers as they try to land Hyatt in 2015.
“Well my uncle went there -- Dan Benish,” Hyatt said. “He was on the national championship team so I have some chemistry there because he’s played there and I’ve been to a lot of their games.”
Uncle Dan, who went on to play for the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins, isn’t pushing his alma mater on his nephew.
“He’s pulling for it but it’s not that big of a deal for him,” Hyatt said.
The coaching staff at Ohio State has caught Hyatt’s attention.
“I really like the coach, Urban Meyer,” Hyatt said. “He has taught Tim Tebow and I just know he’s coached a lot of great players.”
Other schools have made overtures towards Hyatt including Georgia Tech and Louisville. Hyatt said he likes what the Cardinals are doing as well.
“It’s a nice school,” Hyatt said. “After this past year it was a surprise how well they did and I’m starting to like their program.”