ATHENS – As promised, here’s a little bit from each of the football players who were available for interviews today at UGA’s Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall.
WR MALCOLM MITCHELL:
The rising sophomore, who wowed the SEC with his big-play ability as a pass-catcher last season, not only hopes to play some defensive back next season, but said he has also raised his hand as a possible kick returner this year.
Mitchell’s not sure how much of any of it Georgia’s coaches will allow him to do. But he’s already working some with the cornerbacks during weekly voluntary workouts on the field.
“I don’t know how seriously Coach Richt is truly looking at it,” he said. “There’s probably a lot he’s still got to think about. I’ll know once spring starts.”
Mitchell said he has met with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and secondary coach Scott Lakatos to discuss the possibilities. All parties have agreed to give him a look at cornerback during spring practice, which begins March 20. But as for the logistics, such as how much he might play on defense or offense next fall and in what situations, he has no idea how that will work.
“I honestly have no idea how it’s going to work,” Mitchell said. “I don’t even try to think about it because that’s something the coaches are going to have to figure out. Whatever they come out with, that’s what I’m going to do.”
In the meantime, Mitchell made it clear he sees himself as a receiver first.
“None of my offensive goals are going to be slowed down by a couple of reps or a lot of reps on defense,” he said. “I still have a job as a receiver; I want a job as a DB, too.”
TB RICHARD SAMUEL
Speaking of possible position changes, tailback Richard Samuel said he’s not expecting one.
The rising fifth-year senior came to the rescue at running back from linebacker before last season. Now, through recruiting and continued development, the Bulldogs suddenly have tailbacks for next season. Highly-touted freshmen Keith Marshall and T.J. Gurley join a group that includes five players with starting experience — Samuel, Isaiah Crowell, Ken Malcome, Carlton Thomas and Brandon Harton.
Since the Bulldogs return only Zander Ogletree at fullback next season — they also add freshman signee Quayvon Hicks — it has been assumed the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Samuel may get some work there. That’s news to him.
“There’s not going to be a switch or anything,” said Samuel, who then added, he “wouldn’t mind” if it did.
“I’m not too worried about staying at one position” he said. “Knowing we have a solid rotation of backs, I’ll play wherever I can get on the field.”
Samuel also said there has been no discussion of a return to inside linebacker, where he spent a redshirt season two years ago. He does, however, hope to get work this season on special teams.
“I tried to get on special teams last year but the coaches wouldn’t let me because we had short numbers on backs,” he said. “But I’m real interested in playing special teams. Freshman and sophomore years I played special teams all the time. I really like it.”
TE ARTHUR LYNCH
To this point, Arthur Lynch has been known mainly as a big, strong tight end who can block with the best of them. But with the graduation of Aron White and Orson Charles’ decision to enter the NFL draft a year early, the Dartmouth, Mass., native finds himself atop the depth chart and ready to prove himself worthy of the all-star legacy Georgia has had at tight end.
“If anything it’s added more pressure on me more than it’s been a sigh of relief,” Lynch said. “It just adds more pressure to become the upperclassman leader. The truth is, it comes down to the fact that I’m the only one who has game experience out of the three tight ends we’ll have on scholarship this fall.”
Lynch will be joined this summer by Jay Rome, who’s currently playing basketball during his redshirt freshman year, and signee Ty Smith of Colquitt County. One or all of them will have to step up to fill the pass-catching shoes of Charles, who caught 45 passes for nearly 600 yards last season.
“I always have things to prove,” said Lynch, who said he is down to 257 pounds from more than 270 early last season. “I’ve talked to Orson and Aron and they seem to have the confidence in me to continue the success we’ve had at the tight end position. I feel like it’s an opportunity for me to make a statement that I’m more than a guy that can block. Obviously that’s my forte and gotten me to where I am today. But I’ve trimmed down a lot the last six or eight months, trying to get a little slimmer, a little faster.”
QB AARON MURRAY
Aaron Murray is back for his third season as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback. And the redshirt junior said one of the best things about this season is not having to listen to all the “hot seat” talk regarding Georgia’s head coach.
“It’s one less thing to worry about,” said Murray, who met with reporters for a half-hour Thursday afternoon. “Last year, all the talk was, ‘ifyou don’t get to the SEC championship game, you don’t win 10 games, blah, blah, blah, Coach Richt’s gonna be fired.’ I know we don’t talk about it too much. Everybody on the team felt like, ‘hey, we don’t want Coach Richt to leave; we love Coach Richt; we love the rest of the coaches.
“It was stressful, I think not only for us but the coaches. So I think this year everybody’s a little bit more relaxed and feel like, ‘let’s just go out there and play.’ I don’t think anyone’s on the hot seat or worrying about that.”
Murray passed for nearly 3,200 yards with 35 TDs and 14 interceptions last season. But he was at the center of some catostrophic turnovers in losses to South Carolina, LSU and Michigan State.
Murray said he’s working hard to “improve on my footwork,” which he believes will improve his accuracy. “I wasn’t as assurate as I need to be.”
Even if Hutson Mason ends up redshirting as planned — a determination that won’t be made until sometime into the season — Murray is confident the Bulldogs will be fine at his position even if he were to go down with injury. Georgia will be looking to redshirt freshman Christian LeMay as primary backup. It also brought in signee Faton Bauta as an early enrollee and returns veteran walkons Parker Welch and Greg Bingham.
“We have plenty of guys,” he said.
FS BACARRI RAMBO
Bacarri Rambo thought long and hard about entering the draft after last year’s All-American season, in which he led the SEC with 8 interceptions. But he said he came back because, as a unit, Georgia’s defense believes it will be one of the best in the nation next season and can lead the Bulldogs to great things.
The Bulldogs return 10 starters on defense, counting defensive end Garrison Smith, who started the last three games for the injured DeAngelo Tyson. As a result, Rambo believes Georgia will be one of the most sophisticated defenses around.
“We can get deeper in the playbook because we’ve all got another year under our belts under Coach Grantham’s scheme,” he said. “I know he’s going to have fun with us now because we all know what we’re doing.”
Of course, Georgia was already going to have to replace Paul Hornung Award winner Brandon Boykin at one cornerback and now senior starter Sanders Commings is going to be suspended the first two games at the other corner position. Then DBs Nick Marshall and Chris Sanders were dismissed for team rules violations in January.
“We lost some great young players that had a lot of talent,” Rambo said. “But we have a lot of other good players, too, and we’re all just going to have to step up. The older guys have got to keep working with the younger guys and make sure they know how they’ve got to act and how they’ve got to play.”
Of course, Rambo was suspended for Georgia’s opening game last season before going on to an all-star year. He said he reminded Commings of that after a domestic violence arrest led to his punishment.
“He’s just got to live through it,” Rambo said. “I told him, ‘that’s a minor setback for a major comeback.’ I’ve been telling him to not let that get him down, to keep working hard and focusing on what’s ahead of him.”
Meanwhile, Rambo expects Branden Smith and Damian Swann to man the corners in Georgia’s base defense. And he believes that Mitchell guy can help, too.
“He looks real impressive as a corner,” Boykin said of the star wide receiver. “I feel like he’ll understand more about receivers than we do and that’ll probably help him.”
That’s all for now. More later. . . .