And so Mitchell points out the obvious, which is that no amount of talent is safe from failure if it isn't properly utilized.
"I think talent's overrated,'' Mitchell said. "I think if you send a group of kids out there that can mesh and work as one, 11-man football [team], have great football IQ, can play with phenomenal effort, you can play good defense.
"I didn't say great defense. I said good defense. That's the bare minimum.''
Whether Mitchell can reverse the fortunes of the secondary remains to be seen, of course. But it's not as if he's alone on an island of responsibility. The entire West Virginia defense was a failure last season, which is why he's not the only new piece in the coaching puzzle. Tony Gibson is back, now coaching safeties, and Keith Patterson has replaced Joe DeForest as the coordinator.
And every area has to improve.
"It's a collection. You can't have one without the other,'' Mitchell said. "You can't have great pass defense without a great pass rush. We all know that. But on the back end of that, you need great pass coverage to have [tackles for loss] and sacks for the guys up front.''
So now, as the Mountaineers begin their second week of spring practice, Mitchell is essentially starting from scratch.
"These kids are a blank canvas to me,'' Mitchell said. "Some of the things I'm going to do are probably different than what they were exposed to last year or the year before. But we're going to start at ground zero. We're going to teach them how to get into a stance, how to recognize formations, how to play situations. We're going to give them all the tools they need in that toolbox to make a play on Saturday.''
Mitchell has been through similar situations before. His last year at Texas Tech, in 2009, he was in a position of rebuilding and got that project off on the right foot. He didn't stay to see it through - he moved on and spent the last three years as the defensive coordinator at East Carolina - but what he started was a success.
"I had a similar situation at Texas Tech four years ago,'' Mitchell said. "We had a bunch of young guys - just a couple of veterans and then all freshmen and sophomores. And we were able to start at ground zero and develop one of the best secondaries in that conference for four years.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1.