NEW ORLEANS (AP) — For Texas receiver Adonai Mitchell, there’s no mystery surrounding the College Football Playoff.
Monday’s semifinal matchup between third-seeded Texas (12-1) and second-seeded Washington (13-0) in the Sugar Bowl will be the fifth CFP game of Mitchell’s college career. And the transfer from Georgia likes to think his experience winning two national titles with the Bulldogs will benefit a Longhorns program that hasn’t entered the postseason with a shot at a national title since the 2009 season.
“Confidence is always a good thing. It’s good energy that people can feed off of, good energy that’s contagious,” Mitchell, who has touchdown catches in all four of his previous CFP games, said on Friday.
“That’s just exactly what you need … ,” he continued. “You get three weeks to prepare, the other team gets three weeks to prepare, so you can be caught off guard a lot. And just keeping your composure, keeping poised in the stadium, that’s very crucial in games like these.”
The 6-foot-4 Mitchell grew up in Texas, and although he was thriving at Georgia and could have been part of the Bulldogs’ ultimately unsuccessful bid for a third straight national title, the opportunity to play closer to home — and his young daughter — was something he couldn’t pass up.
Taking his pass-catching skills to Texas turned out to be a fortuitous move for him and the Longhorns.
“I thought when I came here I was a complete player,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t. I had a lot to learn. I had a lot of experiences that I had to go through.”
This season, he said, he refined his ability to manage all the work off the field that goes into excelling on it, from workouts and meetings to practice habits and execution.
This season, he has caught 51 passes for 813 yards and 10 TDs.
“Certainly, he’s played in big games and playoff games and championship games before,” Texas offensive coordinator Kyle Flood said. “He’s got a skill set that we were lacking before he got here.
“He is the complementary receiver to X (Xavier Worthy) really that we needed to kind of make the field a little bit more open for both of those guys and for a guy like JT (Ja’Tavion Sanders),” Flood continued. “His role in what we do in the game plan is critical. I think he’s got an air of confidence about him that I think is good for everybody.”
And it’s fair to say Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers won’t hesitate to trust Mitchell in clutch moments.
“He definitely understands the magnitude of it. There’s not a whole lot more guys to trust than him,” Ewers said. ”He’s been here and he’s done that. Definitely going to lean on him.”
The relaxing of NCAA transfer rules in recent years and next year’s expansion of the playoff to 12 teams might make it more common for players to make multiple CFP runs with different teams. But Washington cornerback Jabbar Muhammad figures it’ll remain rare.
“In our reality, every situation doesn’t end up like his,” Muhammad said. “He done lucked up. He came to a winning program and now he’s in the semifinals again. So, kudos to him.”
Mitchell, meanwhile, sounds humbled by the way fate landed him in these huge games three years running.
“It was great teams that I’ve been fortunate to be able to play on,” Mitchell said. “It was great leadership and just being able to lean on guys and knowing that you’re not alone while you’re doing this.”
Mitchell was a freshman when he hauled in a 40-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of the national championship game against Alabama that gave Georgia the lead and the first of consecutive titles. He missed most of 2022 with an ankle injury, but was a Georgia hero again when he returned in time for the postseason and caught the last-minute game winner against Ohio State in the semifinal.
Of his seven TDs at Georgia, four came in the playoff.
Mitchell’s transfer announcement on social media included a photo himself with his daughter, Icylinn, in his lap. She was holding a football. Both were dressed in Longhorns gear. Because his daughter has been raised by his grandparents while he’s been in college, returning to Texas paid immediate personal dividends.
Now it’s led him back to another CFP game. Maybe two.
“Definitely exciting. Definitely fun,” Mitchell said. “It’s three 15-game seasons (if Texas beats Washington), but it’s all worth it.”
AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed.
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