As the 2012 college football season draws nearer, the Rant Sports: SEC Key’s To The Season will profile an impact player from every team in the SEC, regardless of position. In this edition, we profile Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver and cornerback Malcolm Mitchell.
Mitchell came to the Bulldogs last fall as the nation’s top defensive back prospect in the 2011 recruiting class. The 6’1 athlete possessed the size that Secondary Coach Scott Lakatos desired and the speed Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham coveted. However, Mitchell did not play a snap on defense last season.
During his first camp with the team, Malcolm Mitchell was “borrowed” by Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo in an effort to help a beleaguered receiving corp. What Bobo saw in the young athlete during practice was his 4.4 speed, a talent that the team was lacking on offense. After notching a 51 yard score in Georgia’s opening game against Boise State, it was evident that Mitchell would make an impact on the team’s offense. He continued to provide a spark for the team throughout the season and played a large role in their 45-6 dismantling of SEC rival, Auburn. By the end of the season, Malcolm Mitchell had established himself as a receiver that could take the top of a defense and caught 45 passes for 665 yards.
After falling short in the SEC Championship and the Outback Bowl, Georgia was hoping for Mitchell to become an elite receiver in his sophomore season in order to better their chances at a BCS Bowl. The plan was for senior Tavarres King and Mitchell to create a dynamic duo for Aaron Murray to rely on this season. However, Mark Richt was forced to change his plans for the young sophomore.
A string of suspensions handed to defensive backs Bacarri Rambo, Branden Smith, and Sanders Commings crippled the defensive backfield Georgia would have during the first month of their 2012 season. This unexpected turn of events caused Richt to reevaluate his options and at the top of the list was Malcolm Mitchell. Richt was then left looking for help for his receiving corps but his decision was made easier when Mitchell asked to play on both sides of the ball.
Reports out of spring camp said that Mitchell exhibited good skills at the position but the most interesting report out of the spring was that Mitchell spent most of his time on defense. Granted, he needs to pick up the complicated 3-4 scheme the Bulldogs run but the spring reports could be foreshadowing where the defensive back will see most of his playing time.
The Dawgs should breeze through their first game against Buffalo but get tested in their second game when they travel to Missouri. Mizzou runs a spread offense that will stretch out Georgia’s 3-4 defense and also, have the No.1 ranked wide receiver from last year’s class, Dorial Green-Beckham, lining up out wide. Mitchell will be expected to be a blanket corner in that game and his play will be pivotal. Many expect the Georgia-Missouri tilt to be a shootout but if Mitchell can be an effective corner in his second game, the Bulldogs will give the Tigers a rude welcoming to the SEC.
While the weight on Malcolm Mitchell’ shoulders defensively will decrease after the return of Smith and Commings, he will be asked to provide a spark to Georgia’s air attack throughout the season. The Dawgs would be overjoyed if Mitchell could handle double duty as well as former Dawg, Brandon Boykin, did but that is a question no one has an answer for. Aaron Murray lost one security blanket in tight end Orson Charles and while he still has King, Murray will look to Mitchell whenever he is on the field. Having Mitchell on offense would add another dimension to Georgia”s offense, opening the field for the rest of the offense. If Malcolm Mitchell can produce on both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs, the “Dream Team” may actually achieve what they set out to do.