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Mitchell excited to play wide receiver, defensive back for Bulldogs

POSTED: August 23, 2012 7:03 p.m.

ATHENS — Life is good for Malcolm Mitchell as he prepares for a season in which he won't have to choose between offense and defense.

Georgia has big plans for the talented sophomore on both sides of the ball. Mitchell was the Bulldogs' second-leading receiver as a freshman, and he'll be a starting cornerback when No. 6 Georgia opens against Buffalo on Sept. 1.

Mitchell paused when asked how he will choose between wide receiver and cornerback when it's his time to prepare for the NFL.

"Oh. That's one of the toughest questions I've had," he said. 'I would love a pick-six in the league. But I don't know if I could turn down a 50- or 60-yard bomb, either. It's really tough. Either way I think I'd be happy, just as long as I'm out there playing and having fun."

It's also not an easy choice for coach Mark Richt.

Georgia needs Mitchell on defense to start the season as cornerback Sanders Commings serves a two-game suspension.

Then there could be a tug-of-war on Richt's staff for Mitchell's talents. Already offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has made it clear he wants Mitchell back.

"I think coach Bobo has been tongue-in-cheek with some of his comments," Richt said. "He knows that we need Malcolm to play corner. He understands that, but he also understands he's a heck of a wide receiver, and he wants to make sure he sees him play a little bit of offense still, even early on."

There could be good news for Bobo and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Richt believes Mitchell can be a two-way player, and he said the role can grow as the weather cools.

"I think Malcolm is going to spend time on defense early on," Richt said. "I think as the season wears on he'll see more offense. Does that mean he'll play less defense? Not necessarily. He probably will play a little less defense when everybody comes back."

Richt estimated Mitchell could play 60 to 70 plays in September and an additional 10 to 20 snaps per game in cooler weather.

"By virtue of that, then all of a sudden he may be playing more offense just because he's able to play more plays, and maybe there is some more depth at the defensive backfield position," Richt said.

When told what Richt said, Mitchell smiled and said "Of course that's a lot smarter than what I was going to say."
Mitchell played both positions at Valdosta (Ga.) High School.

As a freshman at Georgia, Mitchell started nine games on offense and had 45 catches for 665 yards and four touchdowns.

Mitchell switched to cornerback for spring practice and was so impressive some observers questioned if he would ever return to offense.

"He's very talented," Richt said. "He's a great competitor. He loves practice, he loves preparation. He loves to win the drill, no matter what it is. He loves the challenge of learning a defense. Last year he learned the offense and he didn't show up until the summer."

Mitchell (6-1, 184) has ideal size, speed and skills for cornerback.

"He has great change of direction," Richt said. "He has good ball skills. He's muscled up since he's been here. He has a lot of great tools to be a great cornerback. He has the same type of tools that usually equates into being a great receiver as well."

Quarterback Aaron Murray still has Marlon Brown, Tavarres King, Michael Bennett, Chris Conley and others at receiver. Even so, Murray would like to have Mitchell in his huddle.

"Obviously, being the quarterback I'm a little selfish," Murray said. "I want him over on offense with me, but I know he's going to do the right thing and the coaches are going to put him in position to help us win."

Murray said he's confident Mitchell can handle the challenge of being a two-way player.

"He's a very unselfish player and he's going to do whatever it takes to help the team win," Murray said. "If that takes defense for the entire game, if it means coming over to offense, if it means special teams, he's the kid who is going to do whatever it takes to help us win.

Mitchell said he considers himself to be only filling in on defense.

"I expect Sanders to come back and play the spot he's been playing for a couple of years," he said. "If coaches feel like they want me to stay there, I'll stay there, but for now I'm just stepping in to help."


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