Challenge accepted: New West Orange offensive coordinator settles into role

Replacing one of the top offensive coordinators in Central Florida is no small task, but West Orange High O.C. Vernon Mitchell has made himself right at home in Winter Garden.

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  • | 11:45 a.m. August 18, 2016
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WINTER GARDEN Vernon Mitchell gets excited when he looks at his depth chart.

Entering his first fall as the offensive coordinator for the West Orange High football team, Mitchell came to the Warriors in time for the spring season after previous stops at Boone High and Freedom High.

And, although the Miami Central alum worked with talented athletes at both of those stops, he’ll be the first to say he has never before had the sheer depth of playmakers that he now has at his disposal in Winter Garden — whether it’s receivers such as Naquan Renalds, Kyveon Jones, Jurrod Cook and Dashaun Collins; an explosive running back such as Darian Williams or the Warriors’ new signal-caller, Boston-transfer Austin Burton.

“It’s a blessing to have so many tools in your toolbox to go to,” Mitchell said with a smile during the team’s picture day last week.

That Mitchell has come over to the Warriors is a blessing in itself for head coach Bob Head. When Collin Drafts left to take the head coach job at East River High in East Orange County, Head was left with the task of replacing a coach who had been his right-hand man since his days at Olympia.

Luckily, through recent regular-season and playoff meetings against the Boone Braves, Head was able to identify a successor.

“I’ve had my eyes on Vernon Mitchell for a long time,” Head said. “The first person I went after (when Drafts departed) was Vernon Mitchell.”

Mitchell inherited a receiving corps that is mostly intact from the 2015 season, but little else. In the Warriors’ spring game against Gainesville, the Austin Burton-led offense got off to a slow before putting up some big numbers — including five touchdown passes for the newcomer under-center.

“(Mitchell has) come in and identified his talent and worked extremely hard on changing his system to fit our talent and skill set,” Head said. “I think he’s done a fantastic job motivating our offense.”

With additional time working with the offense, Mitchell enters the fall confident his boys can be versatile enough to leave opposing defenses with their choice of bad options.

“We’re going to take what you give us,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to be very up-tempo, giving different looks. … We’re going to throw some wrinkles in there.”

One area that has particularly been beneficial during the transition is that both the new coordinator and the player with whom he is to work most closely — Burton — are new to the Warriors. 

“It’s really been a great relationship,” Head said. “They’re new together, and the whole entire offense has learned (the system) at the same time as Austin has learned.”

The Warriors will line up Friday against the team that ended their state championship dreams this past fall, hosting the Osceola Kowboys at 7 p.m. in a preseason contest. 

The schedule doesn’t get much easier from there, with early dates looming against Winter Park, Dr. Phillips and Apopka.

Still, even with some tall tasks ahead, there is a new play-caller on the Warriors’ sideline who is excited to be part of a program that he believes can contend for a state title sooner rather than later.

“I’ve never been around this much talent,” Mitchell said. “I’m just really excited and enthusiastic about seeing just how good we can really be.”


Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].