August 12, 2011

Mitchell feels at home

Yes, there are certain aspects of playing cornerback that Malcolm Mitchell is going to miss playing for Georgia this fall.

"Pick-6; you can't get any better than that," Mitchell said, before the question was even completed. "Those are the big plays on defense."

Better than a long catch on offense?

"I don't know, those two go hand-in-hand," he said. "There's no feeling like getting a Pick-6 and there's no feeling like getting a long touchdown."

Mitchell knows the feeling of both.

The former Valdosta High star made quite the name for himself on the defensive side. In fact, Rivals.com ranked him as the country's top-rated corner, all while posting the single-season receiving record for the Wildcats when he made 77 catches for 1,419 yards and seven scores.

It was that sort of success that eventually convinced Mitchell that receiver was the position he wanted to play once arriving at UGA.

"Just playing receiver my senior year, talking it over, praying about it," he said. "It was a decision I had to make and I just love having the opportunity to make plays and picking up yards after the catch. Don't get me wrong. I love defense, but offense really grabbed my attention my last year in high school."

Mitchell has been grabbing even more attention since arriving in Athens in early June.

Ask any teammate of Mitchell on the Bulldogs and they'll virtually gush about the impact he's already made, none more than starting quarterback Aaron Murray.

During SEC Media Days in Hoover, Murray did the same about the young freshmen, emphatically stating that the 6-foot-1, 184-pounder could start for any college team.

"I didn't even know about it until about a day later, because people had been telling my mom how proud they were," Mitchell said. "Then, I happened to see Aaron one day and he told me. I thanked him for saying that because he didn't have to. That means a lot coming from the starting quarterback."

After struggling in Wednesday's scrimmage, head coach Mark Richt is starting to see what the fuss has been all about.

During Friday's 11-on-11 session pitting the first team offense against the first team defense, Mitchell sparked the offense with what Richt called "some key plays in crunch time," including the session-winning touchdown catch.

"If you go by what happened today, you say he's going to be really good," Richt said. "During the scrimmage he had some typical freshman mistakes in regards to assignments he missed. Of course, he hasn't played in a game that counts but he's got the playmaking ability about him to help you win."

Richt said Mitchell obviously still has his share of work to do.

"He doesn't quite have all the offense down but that's why you practice," Richt said. "But what will help him and the rest of the freshmen is when we begin to break it down to smaller terms, this will help them, too, because we've thrown the whole book at them."

Mitchell admits that the book has had some difficult chapters.

"I've still got to perfect my knowledge of some of the plays," he said. "But a lot of the quick stuff I've learned because I've got all the other players around me helping with that stuff."

One way or the other, Mitchell doesn't figure to have to wait long before getting his first taste of collegiate play and said he'll try to take advantage of whatever opportunity coaches decide to offer his way.

That includes some potential reps on special teams, including kickoff and punt return.

"All the freshmen (except the offensive linemen) get a chance to play special teams," Mitchell said. "They (coaches) put them where they think they might be able to play; they put everyone there to see what they can do."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.