Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Tyler Reeves said he believes they could have searched the world over and not found a better fit to lead Albertville High School’s football program than Cliff Mitchell.
The Albertville City Board of Education agreed with the administration at AHS and approved Principal Deidra Robinson’s recommendation of Mitchell as the Aggies’ new head coach during its May meeting Tuesday night.
Mitchell, 38, served as a student coach for the Aggies during the 2003 football season. He joined the Aggie faculty and coaching staff full-time in 2004 and served as assistant head football coach for the 2015-18 seasons under his predecessor, Dale Pruitt.
Mitchell is a 1999 graduate of Douglas, where he played quarterback for his father, Marshall County Sports Hall of Fame member Rex Mitchell. Cliff quarterbacked and his father coached the 1996 and 1998 Eagle teams, the only state playoff teams in program history.
The Aggies’ new boss is a 2003 graduate of Jacksonville State. His wife, Sheryl, is a radiologic technologist at Marshall Medical Center South in Boaz. Their daughter, Arleigh, will be a fifth-grader while their son, Kingston, will be a first-grader in the Albertville City School System.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was little,” Mitchell said. “Dad was a football coach, and I always thought football was something I would be involved in.
“With being an Aggie, I’ve wanted to be the head football coach at Albertville for quite some time now, and it feels amazing to be in that role right now.”
Mitchell was the other finalist when the board hired Pruitt in February 2015. Pruitt lobbied for Mitchell to be named his successor after he resigned May 6 to take over the program at Dade County, Georgia.
“Learning from Coach Pruitt was unbelievable,” Mitchell said. “He was a good man to be around, he was a great coach and I learned a lot of things from him which will help me in the future.
“I’ve also learned a lot of things from the other [AHS] head coaches I’ve been around — Sam Graham, Tommy Tharp, Coach [Joel] Poole, being around Dad, being around Coach Mac [Paul McAbee], being around Coach [Patrick] Harding as long as I coached basketball with him. Taking a little bit from everybody that I’ve been around and try to run a program the way I think it should be ran. Taking good stuff from all of them, because they’ve all had an influence on my life.”
Mitchell said it will be a seamless transition from the Pruitt era to his era, adding there won’t be any surprises for the players.
“A lot of the things that we do now, me and Coach Pruitt discussed at length, as far as putting in our workouts, putting in the time we do things, practice schedules and what to expect of the kids,” he said.
“As far as that goes, it’s been running pretty well. Coach Pruitt put us on a solid foundation, and I just hope to build off that, off what he gave us.”
Mitchell hopes he can add at least one assistant coach to his staff. Veteran assistant Jimmy Patterson, who served as offensive coordinator last year, has retired from coaching.
During spring practice, Mitchell called the offensive plays and coached receivers. Will Scott coached quarterbacks and Jason Smith coached the offensive line. Randy Dupree coached running backs and cornerbacks.
Brandon Lyles is Albertville’s defensive coordinator and works with outside linebackers. Whit Ratliff coaches the defensive line, David Boman works with inside linebackers and Will Richard coaches safeties.
Quinton Williams and DJ Metz helped coach the Aggie freshman offense during the spring. Chad Oliver and Josh Smith worked with the AHS freshman defense.
In 2018, the Aggies punted their spread offense in favor of the Wing-T. Mitchell said his team will feature a multiple scheme in 2019.
“If you watched us in our intrasquad game, it was a little more spread,” he said. “[Quarterback] Ben [Allen] throws it around pretty well. We’ll keep some of the Wing-T stuff in our offense but be a little bit spread too, kind of mix them up.”
The Aggies will stick with a 3-4 scheme on defense.
Mitchell gave a special shout-out to his parents. All four of Rex and Sarah Mitchell’s children are teachers and coaches in Marshall County.
Trevor Mitchell coaches junior varsity girls basketball and varsity girls soccer at Douglas, and Clay Mitchell coaches football at Albertville Middle School. Rylee Mitchell Chaffin coaches cheerleaders at Douglas.
“I grew up in the field house,” Cliff Mitchell said. “Mom was the principal and Dad was the football coach. That’s what I grew up in, and that’s what I want my kids to grow up and be around.
“My parents set the example of what I needed to follow. They set the bar and I’m just trying to reach it.
“Every time we go somewhere they’ve always got people coming up and talking to them and telling them the kind of impact they had on their life, and I want to do that for the kids in Albertville.”
Albertville will open the Mitchell era Aug. 30 against Columbia. The Aggies’ Class 6A, Region 8 opener will be Sept. 6 against defending champion Fort Payne.