Earl Mitchell was practicing for today's East-West Shrine Game when the whistle blew and play stopped.

An NFL scout in attendance wanted to see the Arizona Wildcats' defensive tackle on the offensive line.

For a field goal.

Mitchell happily moved, never questioning a switch to special teams.

"Maybe they wanted to see me there," he said, "but I think it was more to see how I was going to react."

Attitude, Mitchell is learning, means a lot leading up to the NFL draft April 22-24.

"You have to be pretty much aware of everything you're doing: running to the next huddle in practice. You can't put your hands on your hips when you're tired. Anything you do can be evaluated," he said. "Even when you don't think they're looking, they're looking."

And, so far, Mitchell is looking good. Scouts Inc. praised Mitchell during this week's practices, reporting that the 6-foot-2-inch, 295-pound defensive tackle "plays with good leverage, a strong lower body and explodes off the ball."

Scouts Inc. lists Mitchell as the 23rd-best defensive tackle in the draft, though his standing could improve with a solid performance today.

Mitchell and cornerback Devin Ross will represent the UA in the nationally televised Shrine Game, held at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

The Star talked to Mitchell, 22, about meeting with NFL teams, playing in today's game, and his future at the next level. Here's what he said:

On the Shrine Game: "Man, this is different. We have practice, we have meetings, we have Marty Schottenheimer as our head coach. We meet with different teams throughout the day - and, when you have free time, you're sitting by your phone and waiting for teams to call you."

On talking with NFL teams: "I've met with most of the teams since I've been here. I've definitely been shaking a lot of hands."

On the questions he gets: "Some of them have asked if I could play offense again. Mostly, they ask you a lot of general questions - 'How was your upbringing? What's your family history? What do you think of yourself?' "

On his responses: "I don't know if there's a right answer, but I try to answer them as right as possible. I just want to let the coach know how much I love football - I try to get that point across. I love the game; I want to let them know how I'm willing to do anything to help their team win. My career at Arizona shows that I've done that."

On whether teams inquire about his freak injury - Mitchell took a door corner to the eye - that forced him to miss this year's game against Washington: "Yeah! The Buccaneers asked me that, and the Ravens. Philly asked me, too. I explained the story to them. I got those laughs. Am I surprised? Not really. These guys are doing their homework. I understand that I'm an investment with them. I'm not surprised they know all this stuff."

On what he can offer an NFL team: "I bring versatility. I can play anywhere on the field that they want me to play, and I can do anything. If they ask me to go out there on kickoff, I'm willing to do it. I'm not opposed to anything - my career at Arizona proves my versatility. I feel like I'm a quick learner, making a transition from fullback to D-line that quick. I feel like I can do the same, whether it's in the 3-4, 4-3, or by switching positions."

On switching positions: "Some teams talked to me about going back to the goal-line on offense, as an H-back/fullback deal. Some teams want me to do what I did at Arizona, be a pass-rusher from the inside D-line. Some teams want me to move out to the defensive end. They're giving me a ton of possibilities."

On Schottenheimer: "He's a great guy. He's a funny guy. He's a great coach. I can tell already. It's been an honor and a privilege to play for him. He tells us to work, and to make sure that we're aware at all times that we're being evaluated. He makes sure that we start off fast in practices, that we work hard and that we communicate. His involvement gets us excited - he's always around. Sometimes, he'll put his hand down on the line, right next to you, like he's playing."

On the possibility of playing in the NFL: "It's a special feeling. Ever since I've been here, I've thought about what a privilege it is to be here. I'm proud to be here. Coach (Mike) Stoops thought moving to D-tackle would be the best for my future. Me being here just proves that he's right."


The Arizona Wildcats have added a third midyear transfer, former University of Texas wide receiver Dan Buckner.

The Longhorns released Buckner, a 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound sophomore, from his scholarship last week after he was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing and resisting arrest.

Buckner enrolled at Arizona this week as a pre-education major. He must sit out the 2010 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but will have two years of eligibility remaining starting in 2011.

"Dan's a proven player who will help us, and we're glad to bring him into the program," UA coach Mike Stoops said. "His championship experience is something we can count on."

Buckner, 19, caught 45 passes for 442 yards and four touchdowns for the Longhorns in 2009.

His UT career ended following the arrest.

According to police reports, Buckner was visiting a female acquaintance Jan. 14 in College Station, Texas, when a dispute broke out. Officers arrived on the scene, but couldn't get Buckner to leave. He was booked in the Brazos County Jail, and released the next day after posting $8,000 bond.

Buckner prepped at Allen (Texas) High School, the same program as incoming quarterback Matt Brown.

Buckner is one of three midyear transfers to sign with the UA. Linebackers Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo started classes last week after receiving their associates' degrees; both are expected to play, and possibly start, this fall.

Ryan Finley


• What: East-West Shrine Game

• Where: Orlando, Fla.

• When: 1 p.m.