Almost by default, Scott Schmitz is the area's unquestioned knowledge expert. So, when he called Dan Barber, "the best wing back I've seen," there was no reason not to believe him.
For the first three games, Barber didn't disappoint. The then junior gained 255 yards on just 19 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns as the Mustangs, one of the few teams in the state to sport the Wing-T offense, started a surprising 3-0.
However, a high-ankle sprain hobbled Barber the rest of the season and Mitchell's playoff run ended with a 2-5 finish.
Now back and fully healed, the senior leader is set to prove his coach correct once again.
"I can't wait to get out there and start hitting someone in another jersey," Barber said. "We've got a lot of guys who are really competitive and that's only going to make us better."
Barber finished last season with 410 yards on 50 carries but both he and Schmitz know it's his blocking prowess that's the key to the Mitchell offense.
"The wing back in the Wing-T has to be tough enough to block, because he sets the edge," the 11th-year head coach said. "If we don't have that, we can't run the sweep or toss and it takes away too much of our offense.
"He also has to be able to run the ball to the weak side and be our best receiver. I've had kids who could do all three, but not as well as Dan."
With a schedule featuring four straight non-playoff teams to open the season, Mitchell has the opportunity to start quickly again. The key to a playoff run, however, one Schmitz consistently drives home to his players, is finding ways to beat the better teams on their schedule.
"We know if we want to go to the playoffs, we can't just beat the teams we should beat," Barber said. "Every time things get sloppy at practice, coach says, 'We're looking like a 5-5 team again,' and nobody wants that. We're not going to be satisfied with that again."