There just may be a silver lining in Dogs’ secondary scramble

Malcolm Mitchell may wind up a bigger star on defense than he was on offense. (Associated Press)

Malcolm Mitchell may wind up a bigger star on defense than he was on offense. (Associated Press)

UGA had intended Monday’s press gathering with Mark Richt to mainly be about Richt and Todd Grantham’s already expected contract extensions and a look ahead to spring practice, opening March 20.

Unfortunately, the spring break trouble bug bit early, resulting in starting cornerback Branden Smith getting busted for pot in Alabama. Thanks to Georgia’s policy on such things, he’ll miss at least the opening game and possibly the Missouri game as well. With Sanders Commings already suspended for those games and depth problems resulting from dismissals and transfers, suddenly the previously somewhat casual Malcolm-Mitchell-to-defense spring experiment has turned into possibly a career-changer for the rising sophomore wide receiver.

As it stands now, Richt said, Georgia’s top offensive playmaker from last year will be a full-time cornerback in the spring and probably to start the season.

“This spring, he’s going to work almost exclusively on defense,” Richt said. “He may run over there and run a route once in a while or there may be a scrimmage where the offense grabs him and runs a couple of plays that it already knows. The goal for him is to be as proficient as a cornerback as he could possibly be and have enough of a working knowledge where when they work out in the summer, and once we start in camp, he’ll have a pretty good feel of that position.”

“Malcolm was going to play a big role at corner regardless of what happened with Branden,” Richt said. “Our goal is for him to help us on both sides of the ball. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the fall as far as will he go exclusively defensive back or not. I don’t know the answer to that yet. You can’t be at both meetings at the same time, so I feel like early on we’re going to have to have him help at corner and then once Sanders comes back into the fold, then I could see where the time that he spends on offense may increase. He’s got to be ready to play a full game at defensive back at least through Game 2.”

A lot of UGA fans already were worrying about Missouri’s pass-heavy offense and the SEC debut of receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation, even before the news about Smith. Now, some of them are sweating bullets.

But a starting secondary with Mitchell and experienced backup Damian Swann at cornerback looks pretty good to me. Swann was already going to be competing with Smith for a starting spot. And the taller Mitchell probably matches up better with DGB than Smith, who’s a couple of inches shorter.

As for the impact of the move on Georgia’s offensive prospects, even if he still plays some offense, it probably will mean fewer plays at receiver for Mitchell, who caught 45 passes for 665 yards and four touchdowns when he wasn’t out with a hamstring problem last year.

But, Richt said, “I think we have enough guys that can make plays” with Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown behind Mitchell at split end and Tavarres King, Chris Conley and Rantavious Wooten at flanker. King showed in the bowl game he can be a serious big-play threat and Bennett had some big-time clutch catches last season. Throw in speedster Justin Scott-Wesley and the Dogs should be able to take up the slack created by Mitchell spending more time playing D.

And who knows, Mitchell might wind up becoming a bigger star at cornerback than he was at wide receiver.

So while it’s certainly not an ideal situation having your starting cornerbacks likely suspended and your top receiver starting on defense for your conference opener, the way this plays out still could benefit the Dogs in the long run.

Got something on your mind concerning UGA athletics or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

Find me on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

219 comments Add your comment

whatya got loren

March 13th, 2012
10:42 am

I still think Mitchell is a better WR and kind of acts like a WR and not an aggressve DB.

clint northside

March 13th, 2012
10:50 am

Mitchell is a beast period so the transition will be smooth. Taller faster corner doesnt hurt, plus check out 2M’s high schol videos via You Tube…..dude is a stud on both sides!!
Go Dawgs!

SSIgator

March 13th, 2012
10:50 am

Richt said, “I think we have enough guys that can make plays”

Uh, coach. This is only March 13th. At the rate your guys are getting arrested, are you sure you will have a team in place come September?

clint northside

March 13th, 2012
10:51 am

plus he wants 101 catches….dont think he has any weed baggies lying around. Dude has been all in since he showed up…GDG!

Jasper Fraaaanks

March 13th, 2012
10:53 am

I PUT OOOOOONNNNNNNNNN!

clint northside

March 13th, 2012
10:53 am

another cry baby gator….
your fault you have willy “i have to yell at all times to be tough” dumpchamp as HBC….
get a life

[...] webmaster@technorati.com wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt [...]

The rest of us

March 13th, 2012
11:00 am

If any fan wants to make fun of UGA arrests and misdemeanors it sure shouldn’t be a Gator fan. Coach Muschamp is still “weeding” out the bad apples Urban Liar left behind, pun intended.

Get me Rex Kramer

March 13th, 2012
11:02 am

Are we missing the point here? Once again, we have another player arrested. Deja vu with our 2008 year, where we started ranked #1 and led the nation in arrests. In 2004, we had another chance to win a National Championship, and we blew it. Are we really expecting anything different to happen to this year. Richt will never get it done, and we just gave him more $.

UGA Insider

March 13th, 2012
11:05 am

No worries…CMR can aways go over the the intramural fields and pickup a couple of guys to help. We have several scholarship and walk-on spots available. McGarity might want to leak a memo to the staff that we are allowed to sign as many as 25 a year now just in case players ever get into trouble or get hurt.

SSG Desert Dawg

March 13th, 2012
11:05 am

What are the chances neither Commings or Smith get their starting spots back after Swann and Mitchell man the corners for the first two weeks???

GTBob

March 13th, 2012
11:19 am

It still cracks me up that UGA fans are scared of a team that went 8-5 last year and lost a lot of starters. Not to mention that they weren’t even a good passing team in a conference that had little pass defense.

Moobs Johnson

March 13th, 2012
11:21 am

All the position switches in the Richt era have worked out really well so I’m sure this one will too.

RxDawg

March 13th, 2012
11:22 am

Good to see your glass half full this morning Bill. I agree that we look much better at the WR position then we do the DB position at this momement. So what else can you do?

RxDawg

March 13th, 2012
11:27 am

It’s the intagibles that worry us Bob…. oops, sorry I should know better. Tech fans can’t have an intelligent discussion on football involving subjective points.

Gman 84

March 13th, 2012
11:34 am

FWIW, I vote “no” on Mitchell moving to D.

The other receivers are OK, but none are a consistent big-play threat. I think we will really miss him on offense and the 2-way thing may prevent him from reaching his potential on either side of the ball.

faithfuldawg86

March 13th, 2012
11:39 am

@Whatya got: Not trying to be an obnoxious commenter (seriously), but I am curious what you’re basing that opinion on since we haven’t seen him at this position yet. I think we’d be crazy to keep someone with his ability off the field. As long as he can physically handle playing both ways, put him in, coach!!

Saban

March 13th, 2012
11:42 am

SSIgator — Janoris Jenkins says hello! How are the ‘deferred prosecution’ cases going in Gainesville? Muschump gotten his balls back to discipline anyone yet?

gratefuldawghead

March 13th, 2012
11:54 am

[...] webmaster@technorati.com wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt [...]

GTBob

March 13th, 2012
11:56 am

Tech fans can’t have an intelligent discussion on football involving subjective points.

Ok. Please give me the intangible points of why Missouri has any chance against UGA.

Tweedle Dee

March 13th, 2012
11:56 am

SSIgator – Any gator fan talking about UGA’s arrest record compared to UF doesn’t know the facts.

As far as MM is concerned, I am not sure that Branden Smith hasn’t lost his job for more than just one or two games. Too bad. That was a really dumb mistake for a senior.

Daddio

March 13th, 2012
11:57 am

GT bob….Don’t you wish you had the same problem of players so good you can’t decide which side of the ball to plat them.

[...] webmaster@technorati.com wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt [...]

gbal

March 13th, 2012
12:01 pm

So 84…. What do you suggest we do at DB. Any thoughts. I mean we are thin as he!! at the positions. Gotta get someone ready and coaches feel Mitchell is the best candidate at the position…. Mitchell has to learn coverages and pretty fast… I dont see another options and we do need back-ups as well when suspensions are up. I dont see a choice and I think Mitchell agreeing to do this switch shows what kind of character this guy has. I mean after all to love for his pervformance last year at receiver… to make this switch. DGD.

I think we getting a bit to much love from the press with predictions on rankings. I mean really…. Holes to fill and questionable OL…. And now a secondary that is thin with suspensions on top…. Two key areas that I am just not sure we can overcome.

[...] News Sources wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt [...]

Tuscaloosa cops don't arrest Bama players. Fact.

March 13th, 2012
12:02 pm

It’s been a while, but Champ Bailey was a pretty darn good shut down corner and he returned kicks and was a decent receiver. His last season he averaged over 100 plays a game and it didn’t hurt him at all. I am sure there have been guys that fit and good enough to do it, but we’ll never know until we try it with someone like MM.

damngooddawg!

March 13th, 2012
12:02 pm

Hey Bob, I know a little trade school on North Ave that we’re not “scared of”.

AltamahaDawg

March 13th, 2012
12:03 pm

Bill, Bill, Bill. Silver lining? Wrong crowd.

Frank Lane

March 13th, 2012
12:06 pm

I think that versatility on the part of coaches will help in recruiting the best athletes in the future.

Columbus Dawg

March 13th, 2012
12:10 pm

Quit worrying Dawgs, MM will be on O when they need him to be. My bet is the D will have only given up around seventeen points or so after first two games, and that’s only IF Buffalo scores at all. Season will start just opposite of 2011 with 2-0 start. D will be absolutely awesome by game three. O will catch up nicely by the time they get to South Carolina game, Dawgs need desperately to take the game against the chickens this year, as this will be a real confidence builder going into the game with the Vols. The game with Tennessee won’t be easy, but will propel the Dawgs to undefeated season if they can win it. Historically the games with the Vols have been important in UGA’s best seasons and 2012 will be no different. 2011 was the first year since 1981 that UGA defeated Tennessee, Florida and Auburn in the same season, and I firmly believe that if they can do it again this season that MUCH more success will follow.

TRYING DESPERATELY TO BE OPTIMISTIC LIKE BILL TODAY!!!!! GO DAWGS!!!!!

Valdosta Cat

March 13th, 2012
12:12 pm

For those who think Malcom is a better reciever than he is a DB is mistaken. The only way he is better is that he gets the ball in his hands more at reciever but he is better DB, game changer even, than he is a reciever. I think he will be better than Claiborne from LSU when it is all said and done.

GTBob

March 13th, 2012
12:12 pm

GT bob….Don’t you wish you had the same problem of players so good you can’t decide which side of the ball to plat them.

Don’t you mean the problem of having very few CB’s that are not suspended therefore they had to move a WR over for depth?

damngooddawg!

March 13th, 2012
12:13 pm

The foolish, careless lack of regard some young talented athletes have for the great opportunity given them is astounding to me, even now. In other words, “DARN! @@@&@&@&@&@&@@&!

damngooddawg!

March 13th, 2012
12:18 pm

Hey Bob. at least we haven’t had a season taken from us because of violatiions. Why not pay more attention to the situation at tech; trying to play with the big boys has got to be kinda…frustrating? Makes me kinda weepy just to think about it…..HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

GTBob

March 13th, 2012
12:20 pm

trying to play with the big boys has got to be kinda…frustrating?

We haven’t played one of the big boys in years.

AltamahaDawg

March 13th, 2012
12:21 pm

I’d guess that Mitchell’s eventual switch to more DB was in the making, irrespective of the knuckleheads. That IS what he was recruited for. The kid was exciting at WR, but it’s not like he was real polished. He ran pretty basic routes and a lot of his late season success was catching some very well thrown balls to the back shoulder. We were not suppose to have any answer when AJ left and we did it with a freshman. We’ve got some issues but using the other capable Recievers will not be one of them.

PDogg

March 13th, 2012
12:34 pm

GTBob, you play the BIG DAWGS every year and get dominated. WE RUN THIS STATE. Go Dawgs. GATA

Mobile Dawg

March 13th, 2012
12:37 pm

IF our Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator had an imagination, actually utilized “all” the weapons at their disposal, “you know to keep the defense confused and guessing” we wouldn’t have to worry about the wide receiver position so much.

DAWG258

March 13th, 2012
12:41 pm

I know SSI isn’t rambling about players getting arrested… much less drug arrest…
LOOK IN THE MIRROR!
I’m predicting Debose will fail a drug test this year… come on at least 1 for 6 years in a row…

Columbus Dawg

March 13th, 2012
12:42 pm

What the Dawgs really need is for these sorry programs like Auburn and Tennessee to win some games so the ___ wipes will settle down about how easy our schedule is. I do think that both programs will be more successful in 2012, Van Gorder will make Auburn much more stout on D than they have been, and Dooley is a better coach than he is given credit for. Jury is still out on whether Mediocre Muschamp can get Gators back on track. Where are all the mealy mouth Bama fans today?

GTBob

March 13th, 2012
12:43 pm

GTBob, you play the BIG DAWGS every year and get dominated.

We get beat by a lot of teams every year. It doesn’t make them all big boys. You are probably going to have to do something other then beating GT if you want that kind of recognition.

oakisland

March 13th, 2012
12:45 pm

I’m sure Coach Richt is planning on having a much improved running game this season and this will free MM up to go to defense and still keep the opposing defense honest when goes on offense. I, for one, think it is a smart move and one that should be tried in spring practice. Get the running game going and we will be fine. Go Dawgs.

damngooddawg!

March 13th, 2012
12:50 pm

GTBob, I agree. If we played in the ACC we’t we’d dominate most years. No brag, just fact.

JB

March 13th, 2012
12:52 pm

Damn shame to have to move Mitchel to the defense because of troubles with players and lack of roster management. Mitchel was a real threat on offense.

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

March 13th, 2012
12:55 pm

We Bama fans have to go remodel the trophy case Columbus while you polish Richt’s….

Mitchell was recruited by Nick Saban as a DB first and Nick would give him a chance at offense 2nd! Nick will no paint a pretty picture for his recruits and that is a fact Jack. This is how he weeds(you UGA folks know somethinga about that) out the prospects from day 1. None of the missing man bullsheet lke the preacher man and no friends of good players need to apply.

The facts are Richt just told his guys to stay out of trouble and what does he get? Those players have no fear of any coach at UGA and no respect nor discipline. It is a great day that you extended Mr. Rogers contract. Get a copy someone and learn about his buyout! Just saying.

BullDawg

March 13th, 2012
12:56 pm

I agree GT Bob. Beating Tech every year is not much to brag about.

BullDawg

March 13th, 2012
12:58 pm

Wet Willie why don’t you learn how to write!

GTBob

March 13th, 2012
12:59 pm

GTBob, I agree. If we played in the ACC we’t we’d dominate most years. No brag, just fact.

Alcorn St would probably dominate the ACC most years. Still doesn’t make you a big boy.

Thomas Brown

March 13th, 2012
1:03 pm

There is no way that this is good news.