Created:Wednesday, December 30, 2009 11:39 p.m.CDT
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Bulls' speed concerns NIU

By JON STYF - jstyf@daily-chronicle.com

TORONTO – Carlton Mitchell is fast, and he comes from a long line of athletes.

The 6-foot-4, 212-pound junior, who already is South Florida's career leader in receptions and receiving yards, is just the type of player that could give Northern Illinois fits in Saturday's International Bowl at Rogers Centre.

It happened with the speed of Louisiana Tech's Phillip Livas, who returned a kick 97 yards for a touchdown in last season's Independence Bowl loss. And it struck again this season when Ohio's LaVon Brazill returned a punt 91 yards then caught two touchdowns in a 38-31 Bobcats win this season.

Elite speed kills. And that's what Mitchell, the Big East's 400-meter dash record-holder, has. But it isn't just Mitchell.

South Florida redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels, the Bulls' rushing leader with 798 yards on the season, has it too. The pair, distant relatives on both of their fathers' sides of the family, even race each other on a regular basis in a battle that never has a clear winner.

The Bulls have speed at running back with Mo Plancher and Mike Ford, speed on punt returns from Faron Hornes and more speed in the receiving game with A.J. Love.

"We have a lot of speed on this team," Mitchell said. "I think our coaches are good at utilizing our speed. I think we're going to use that to our advantage."

The scary part is that the Bulls are even faster on the defensive side with players such as Nate Allen and Jerome Murphy in the secondary, Kion Wilson, Sabbath Joseph and Chris Robinson at linebacker and even potential first-round draft picks Jason Pierre-Paul and George Selvie on the defensive line.

NIU recruiting coordinator P.J. Fleck said the Huskies have some extremely fast players, they just don't have team speed across the board like USF.

"We've got fast kids, but I would say their speed is at a different level than us right now," Fleck said. "That's where we want to get to. That's what we want to be and that's what we're trying to recruit."

USF has built it's 14-year-old football program on recruiting that type of speed with Florida kids who come from a long line of athletes. All but seven of the Bulls players are from Florida.

"That's why we all go down there to recruit," NIU coach Jerry Kill said. "They're going to have some great athletes, but we can't control what they do.

"We've got to play with great discipline, we've got to execute and we can't turn over the ball. We can't give them anything. If we can do that, you get a bounce or two, you never know what is going to happen in the game of football."

Mitchell is just a prime example of why USF is so fast. He came to USF to stay near his mother, a Tampa-area anesthesiologist who – within the past year – became the first female cut-man in professional boxing.

She's first worked in Antonio Tarver's corner (a former boyfriend Mitchell says is extremely close "like a step-father") then worked with Roy Jones Jr., Zab Judah and others.

"She's my motivation," Mitchell said.

His father, Carl Mitchell Sr., was a professional basketball player overseas just like his brother, Carl Mitchell Jr., is now.

Daniels is the same.

Coming out of high school, the 6-foot-1 and 210-pound Daniels was ranked as one of the top 10 dual-threat QBs in the country.

One of his uncles, Ramon Lester, played defensive line at Auburn while another, Paul, played basketball on the same team as Charles Barkley at Auburn.

That type of athleticism runs through USF and it runs back many years. But that's not enough to get NIU"s coaching staff to concede anything.

"I think that's what's great about college football because you have to play the game and the team that wants it more is going to win," Fleck said. "You can have all the speed in the world, but that's why you have game plans. That's why you try to use their speed against them. That's what teams like us try to do. That's what coaches are for.

"The game would be over already right now and it would be in the stat book as a loss for the Huskies with the way the media has talked and the way that everybody has been talking about our football game here."

How do you feel about NIU's recruiting class?
NIU couldn't have done better
Huskies went to a BCS bowl in 2012, it's disappointing
Talk to me in three years