July 31, 2012

Mitchell Mr. Versatility

During the recent SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., Georgia wide receiver Tavarres King was posed the following question about sophomore Malcolm Mitchell.

With the Valdosta native slated to add cornerback to his duties this fall, did King ever see himself doing the same?

"Oh, I could probably kick, play quarterback … maybe play center," King smiled. "But no. Malcolm's in a league of his own. He's a special player. My hat's off to him for embracing that and doing what coaches have asked; something that's hard to do. He's really stepped up to the plate."

By now, his story is a familiar one.

A member of the All-SEC Freshman team after catching 45 balls for 665 yards and four touchdowns, the former Valdosta star slid over to cornerback during the spring, where coaches wanted to see exactly what he was able to do.

"As it turned out, it was a decision that made a lot of sense for us to do that. Malcolm spent the entire spring playing defense. I wanted him in every meeting," head coach Mark Richt recalled. "I wanted him at every practice as a defensive player because I don't want to limit Coach (Todd) Grantham's ability to call some type of scheme because Malcolm is in the game. "

Mitchell apparently did plenty to impress.

With the Bulldogs reporting for fall camp today, Mitchell does so listed right behind starter Sanders Commings at one of the two cornerback spots.

With Commings due to sit out the first two games as punishment for his January arrest, Mitchell could well find himself the starter for Georgia against both Buffalo and Missouri.

"We recruited him to play cornerback, to play defensive back. When we got towards the end of the recruiting process, AJ Green had declared to go pro, so Malcolm got excited about playing offense," Richt said of Mitchell, who was Rivals' top-ranked high school cornerback his senior season with the Wildcats.

"He also caught more balls in the state of Georgia than anybody his senior season. He had a tremendous offensive season," Richt said. "A.J. Green left and he's thinking, 'maybe I can make an impact as a freshman on offense. Coach, can I do that?' I said 'no problem, Malcolm, that's what we'll do."

But playing defense never quite got out of Mitchell's blood.

"When the season was over, he immediately started to lobby to play both ways because he missed playing defense, as well," Richt said. "I was like, 'Okay, we'll think about it.'"

But Mitchell won't be forsaking his offensive duties, either, although defense could well be his home until Sanders returns Week 3 against Florida International.

"We need to match up against some of these teams we're going to play that love to spread the ball, as Missouri does. Early in the year you'll see a whole lot more of Malcolm on defense percentage-wise. As the season rolls along, you'll see more of a fix, closer to 50/50 offense and defense," Richt said. "I also think early in the year he'll be able to play only so many plays because of the heat. But as the weather cools, if 60 is the amount of plays he can play effectively early in the year, maybe he can go to 80 or 90 plays."