Notebook: Malcolm Mitchell understands why changes being made on punt returns

By RYAN BLACK
Special to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATHENS – Every day is an adventure for Malcolm Mitchell.

Georgia’s sophomore cornerback/wide receiver said Monday he doesn’t know where he will practice each day until he arrives and sees which color jersey is hanging in his locker. And yes, he admitted, it does get tiresome.

“It can be difficult sometimes because you never know, but it’s what I signed up for, so I’ve got to deal with it,” Mitchell said following Monday’s practice, a day he noted was spent exclusively on offense.

Mitchell, who started three games at cornerback on defense, played only offense against Tennessee this past weekend. He said he never has an issue separating the offensive and defensive calls in his head given his constant, back-and-forth shuffling. He has played enough with both units already, after all. But he has had his share of issues in another area: punt returns.

Problems have plagued him fielding punts all season, and they came to a head in Saturday’s victory against Tennessee, when he decided to let the punt roll and forced the Bulldogs’ offense to begin their drive at the 1-yard line. Mitchell was relieved of his punt returning duties later in the game by Rhett McGowan, and following Saturday’s victory, Georgia coach Mark Richt reiterated, “Rhett’s the guy.”

For his part, Mitchell said he had no qualms about being replaced.

“That’s fine. The best person for the job gets it,” he said. “I’ve had some mistakes this year, and if they call for [McGowan] to go in, I’ll support him all the way. While he’s back there, you’ll see me on the sideline cheering him on. Hopefully he’ll run it back, because we need one.”

Whether he’ll still be in the punt return rotation hasn’t been discussed yet, Mitchell said. But he’s more aware of his gaffes than anyone, and knows he is now paying the penalty for them.

“I’m far from dumb or ignorant,” he said. “I know something has to be done. Too many mistakes have been made, so I’m not one to be blind to things that happen around me. You’ve just got to take it and deal with it, whatever happens.”

Tight ends ‘unseen’ but pleased with play in 2012

Georgia’s torrid offensive pace this season has seen the tight ends play in relative anonymity. And they’re fine with that.

Both Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome know people focus more on receptions than the yards they help clear for the running backs with their blocking. The specter of Orson Charles looming over the position — who caught 71 passes for 996 yards and seven touchdowns the past two seasons — may put unenviable expectations on his successors.

While Lynch may not match Charles’ numbers in the receiving department, he has been satisfied with his play nonetheless.

“You can call it however you see it, but I don’t think it has necessarily been a slow start,” he said. “We’ve been blocking well, and I know if you read the message boards, you read all the stuff and see people saying things, it’s disheartening. At the same time we know what we can do, we know how much work we’ve put in, and we obviously know when the opportunity presents itself, we’ve got to make plays.”

And Rome said he enjoys making a key block on a touchdown run every bit as much as he enjoys scoring himself — even if blocking isn’t normally highlight reel-material.

“I have text messages when I come back to my phone like, ‘I saw that block on Todd’s [Gurley] touchdown run,’” he said. “That always makes you feel good. I know it’s the dirty part of the game and it goes unseen by some people, but there are people that recognize what we’re doing.”

Recognizing a flaw in Tennessee’s defense paid dividends for Rome on Saturday. His lone reception, a 21-yarder in the opening period, was something both he and Lynch knew “would be open” after watching it in the film room.

There was only one problem: Aaron Murray nearly overthrew him, forcing Rome to make a leaping, one-handed catch to avoid an incomplete pass.

Rome was happy to share what he and the other tight ends noticed in watching the Volunteers’ defensive film:

“With the coverage they were running, a Cover-3, they were rolling the front-side safety down, the one on our side of the field. I knew that if I could get a clean release off the defensive end and keep it wide, there was only one safety in the middle of the field. And if I kept it wide, then Aaron would have a chance to put it on me. So when the play got called, I was sitting there in my stance and I looked up to start surveying the defense, and I saw the safety start to roll down, and my eyes got kind of big. I was like, ‘Oh, I think I’m about to get this one.’ So I made sure I got a clean get off the end, ran my route out wide and once I turned back, I saw the ball in the air and went up and got it.”

3 Dogs get SEC honors

Tailbacks Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley were two of the three players named freshmen of the week and senior defensive back Sanders Commings was named the co-defensive player of the week by the SEC on Monday. In the win over Tennessee, Marshall had a career-high 164 yards and two touchdowns, while Gurley matched his career high with 130 yards and he scored three times. Commings had five tackles, including four solos, and intercepted two passes. His final pick came with seven seconds remaining to seal the victory.

Etc. . . .

Starting defensive end Abry Jones was seen in a walking boot when he arrived for media interviews on Monday night. When this was pointed out to him, Jones deftly sidestepped the question and quipped, “Aw, it’s good. I just left my other shoe at the house.” . . .  Captains for Saturday’s game will be quarterback Aaron Murray and tackle Kenarious Gates on offense, cornerback Sanders Commings on defense and Christian Robinson on special teams. . . . Georgia’s Monday injury list consisted of only two players: tailback Brandon Harton (thumb sprain) and tight end Cole Trolinger (concussion).

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81 comments Add your comment

Resident Georgia Fan

October 1st, 2012
11:08 pm

GTBob … you are the first coward and the biggest

Resident Georgia Fan

October 1st, 2012
11:09 pm

And you are the second GT coward and the rest of your friends can eat my dust!

RHall55

October 1st, 2012
11:09 pm

Rhett McGowan…former walk-on as your punt returner…where are all the explosive recruits (beside Malcolm…was given his chance!!)?

Resident Georgia Fan

October 1st, 2012
11:10 pm

Where are the rest of you posters? In fourth place?

Oakdale Dawg

October 1st, 2012
11:10 pm

Bring it Saturday, Dawgs!

Hair E Dawg

October 1st, 2012
11:12 pm

Sautee Dawg

October 1st, 2012
11:17 pm

Tight ends and the fullback should all get gameballs, especially the fullback, all these touchdon runs include him taking out somebody, mostly linebackers.
People wondered at the start of the season why he was starting. Watch film and you’ll see why. BLOCKING. All of UGA’s offense is good at blocking downfield, Lynch took out two defenders on one touchdown run Saturday.

The Ballad of Poor Joe Cox

October 1st, 2012
11:49 pm

man i love the dogs

drbasic1

October 1st, 2012
11:57 pm

Team players all the way around….This team is special, they may not make it to the NC, but it sure is fun to watch.

Am I the dumb one?…..KC thinks we don’t rank in top 15, Holtz thinks SC will eat our lunch, Finebutt thinks Bray is still throwing passes on us….and the list goes on………Am i the only one thinking we match up much better to SC than we did with TN? Sure they have two fantastic defensive ends, but that is easily taken care of by careful planning. Every where else, in my opinion, we outmatch them….I don’t seek BS replies, but rather logic. Yes turnovers could give the advantage to either team.

Matt

October 2nd, 2012
12:09 am

Hey, RHall55 if Rhett McGowan is the right man for the job what does him being a former walkon matter in the least. Every time his number has been called he has produced, and just a guess, I think Coach Richt knows a little more than you, so If he wants McGowan back there then why would you question him. Go Dawgs.

Daytona Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
12:51 am

I agree with drbasic1. There seems to just be a lot of great team players all the way around. Richard Samuel, Malcolm Mitchell, Gurley, Marshall, Jarvis Jones, the entire O-line, etc.

Even if they don’t make it to the MNC, there’s something special…and refreshing…about this gang.

Bernie Matt

October 2nd, 2012
1:10 am

Lemay throws a pick in rare appearance, gets put behind walk-on, Mitchell makes a mistake t punt return, when it’s his first year doing it, gets replaced by walk-on. Aaron Murray makes same bad plays after 4 years at position and Hutson Mason gets redshirted. What does the Rabbi have on Richt!

DirtyDawg

October 2nd, 2012
2:58 am

Hey Bernie Matt…cram it! Lemay’s not up to te job and Bobo and Richt know more than you or I. Mitchell has made mistake after mistake returning punts and this one cost us but fortunately not the game. The young man that’ll be handling punts for now may not be the returner Mitchell is, but he won’t allow punts to hit and roll another 20 or 30 yards or try and catch and run when the proper play is a fair catch…a sure-handed fair catch.

Sunbury Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
3:00 am

This is going to be a big game! 60mins of GATA to show the world we are going to MIAMI!

G Marmalard

October 2nd, 2012
3:02 am

Seriously? Murray has 3rd best qb rating in the nation.

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German Shepherd Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:18 am

Bernie’s comment was ignorant as well as not funny. Murray is a Christian.

redandblack

October 2nd, 2012
5:45 am

NO turnovers, No stupid penalties, and No stupid mistakes this week……..or else we lose…..

BTW, did you just hear that?????………………..MTSU just scored again……poor tech (not)

GTBob…….GTBob……where are you boy????

gomdawg

October 2nd, 2012
6:00 am

If we get up on South Carolina we don’t need to go to the run out clock thing keep the offense rowing Georgia moves the ball better on a fast paste. I know this puts the D back on field faster but we have backups. I say we beat SC. 38-24 GO DAWGS

Oh Well

October 2nd, 2012
7:09 am

He Coach BoBo, please quit trying not to lose. Play to win and don’t play to eat the clock until late in the game. You need some killer instinct my friend.

Oh Well

October 2nd, 2012
7:10 am

Sounds like Bernie may be a racist.

LoyalDog

October 2nd, 2012
7:11 am

Malcolm has too much talent and ability to start making excuses for his poor play and decisions He knows he can perform better. He needs to stop reading the clippings comparing him to Champ. Just play and enjoy being Malcolm Mitchell. Get off the pity pot

Vampire Bill

October 2nd, 2012
7:19 am

This weekends win is all on the coaches. Players are strong fast smart and talented. Come up with a good game plan, adjust as needed when needed and bring home the W. Earn your millions Richt…

JB

October 2nd, 2012
7:22 am

Lynch gonna have to line next to Theus this week and help with Clowny ( sp?) cause I know the Carolina coach’s have picked up that Tenn beat him real good on the edge most of the night. Don’t look for a TE to catch a pass this week, but will be blocking with Theus to slow down the blitz. Spurrier knows Murray like to “set up” and pass and he knows he deadly. He’ll blitz all night.

JB

October 2nd, 2012
7:23 am

boy, left off all my S’s…..LOL

RevTom

October 2nd, 2012
7:27 am

Gotta love it – go Coach Richt!!! http://www.wedgeorgia.com

Neutral

October 2nd, 2012
7:27 am

Guys, being a “walk-on” does not mean you are inadequate. Oftentimes kids are late bloomers or played for small HS and were overlooked. Some may have gotten scholarships to small colleges and elected to try to walk on at UGa. These guys are usually highly motivated. UGa and all other big time colleges have players who have become famous as walk-ons. I’m drawing a blank due to my old age, but UGa had an All SEC punt returner several decades ago who was a walk-on. So chill because we need consistency in this part of our game……and not everyone is a “honey badger”….ooooops, I forgot, great player who isn’t playing. Be thankful guys…..we are developing a team full of class act guys and eliminating the thugs.

Sic em Doody

October 2nd, 2012
7:28 am

Our first poster is more concerned with GTbob than the Dawgs? Really? Dont encourage the stupidity! On that…Mitchell being removed from returning is past due in my opinion. UGA-SC…Dawgs win by 10!

Neutral

October 2nd, 2012
7:36 am

I agree with dr basic1. I think we match-up better with SC than TN. I also think TN is a really good team that could be 5-0. They just let the FL game get away by giving up those 2 quick TDs. To their credit, they didn’t give up to UGa and kept fighting back.

Neutral

October 2nd, 2012
7:43 am

SC has Lattimore…..we have Gurshall. They have Clowney…….we have Jones and company. Be confident guys, let’s just not make stupid mistakes and give the game to them like we did last year. I always find it funny when I hear Spurrier crying about their schedule last year. Even Spurrier admitted that they were totally outplayed by UGa last year and were lucky to win. So my point is, if you are totally outplayed and lucky to win……then obviously the best team from the East played in the SEC Championship game!!!!

Craig

October 2nd, 2012
8:01 am

Geting a bit concerned about malcom’s attitude…sense a bit of “ME” instead of team….complaining about having to play both ways….hmmmm…seems a bit different that what he said before. I think Murray and special teams cost us this game…..like they have in the past.

Craig

October 2nd, 2012
8:03 am

Agree with above post- it’s this time of year that UGA will lose one they should not (Murray turnovers/special teams) and then we spend the rest of the year praying someone loses. Same story- just a different year- this is UGA football…..you would think the coaches and players would finally do something about it- but after watching UT game- its the same thing

Chris Snow

October 2nd, 2012
8:34 am

My worries on Mitchell is it’s been hard for him to really stay focused because he’s doesn’t really have a set role, and I’m not sure if he’s even 100% from that ankle injury earlier this season.

Say what you want about the UT game, but I think it will better prepare the Dawgs for this week.

Chris Snow

October 2nd, 2012
8:37 am

@ Craig, In years past, we would had lost the Mizzou and UT game. This team so far has showed a lot of resilience.

Paddy

October 2nd, 2012
8:46 am

I would leave Mitchell on defense. That is where we need him the most.

I-DOG

October 2nd, 2012
8:54 am

Very happy that we beat TN Saturday to keep things going.

I was perplexed at how we used Malcom Mitchell. We featured him on offense on the first drive of the game and then he only played a few snaps the rest of the way. He couldn’t have played more than 15-20 plays plus special teams in this game. Is that really the gameplan with one of the SEC’s best athletes? Play him 15-20 snaps on offense while the defense plays 85 plays?

Seems like we could use him more on defense with this team. Let him practice most of the week with the defense and then give him one day with the offense and let him work on 4-5 different plays on offense (he knows how to run the routes already).

Let him play 30 snaps on defense so that our secondary doesn’t get so tired (they were all gassed at the end of the 3rd quarter against TN) and then let him play 10-15 snaps on offense. Remove him from special teams as he can help the team most at receiver and corner.

Either way, the guy needs to play more. It is a waste to play him only 10-15 snaps from scrimmage in a game. Probably Champ’s 100 snaps is too much, but this is too little.

D-MAN

October 2nd, 2012
9:00 am

Like i’ve said before,Mitchell back to corner and Smith to the bench!
We better improve on punting,dead last in SEC.Quit with the Miami crap
we aint ready for Bama!

333

October 2nd, 2012
9:02 am

Aaron Murray overthrowing a receiver? We’ve all seen it before.

I-DOG

October 2nd, 2012
9:14 am

I think the defense will play much better in Columbia Saturday night. I have no data and nothing specific to hang my hat on, it is mostly a feeling.

The defense didn’t play well overall against TN, however, they weren’t maybe quite as bad as some are saying. Here is why:

First, TN is the 2nd best offense in the SEC. They are getting better as the season goes on and their offensive line is excellent. I believe they will score 30 plus points on MANY of their opponents the rest of the way (barring injury to their QB)

The Dawgs played 85 snaps. That is an extra quarter of football. The D looked the worst at the end of the 3rd quarter and first half of the 4th as they were completely spent. Thankfully, they came up with turnovers when they needed them most.

The pass rush was poor against TN, that is true. However, while the Dawgs weren’t sacking the QB, they did get a lot of hurries and knock downs. UGA has to improve the pressure this week.

Georgia played pretty stout on 1st and 2nd down through 3 quarters. Third down was a killer and the main reason that they D couldn’t get off the field and allowed TN to run 85 offensive snaps. 3rd and 5 and 3rd and 10 were just way too easy for TN. Georgia had problems with 3rd down two years ago, but looked to put that behind them last year. Grantham MUST figure out how to get the D off the field on 3rd down against the Gamecocks.

Grantham tends to play the starters more than most D coordinators in college (NFL style). I believe that we need more rotation, particulary in the secondary, but also at outside LB. Malcom Mitchell playing 30 snaps defensively will keep the corners fresh. Give Corey Moore 5-10 snaps at safety… Give Ray Drew and Ramik Wilson a few more snaps in the front 7. We have depth, lets use it.

Chase Vasser appears to be a much better player this season to me. I like the way he is playing. Damian Swann had a good game against TN.

The defense is not as good as we thought it would be, but we still have potential to be a good defense. Hopefully, we take a step forward this week.

AltamahaDawg

October 2nd, 2012
9:25 am

TN o-line has given up 2 sacks all year. Tops in the SEC, #5 in the nation.

(Alabama’s best Line the history of the world has given up 11, just as a reference for those of you who only see football through the scope of what Nick Saban would do)

SC has given up 13.

We’ll give em 3 more.

Chris Snow

October 2nd, 2012
9:26 am

Good points I dog. I too think the D will play much better this week. If there is ANY game that Grantham needs to get the D fire up about, it’s this one. We finally have all of our pieces back, we’ve established depth, now let’s go out and execute!

Chris Snow

October 2nd, 2012
9:28 am

As far as our offense goes, we are absolutely LOADED with weapons. Bobo and Murray have done a good job so far with utilizing what we have. We just can NOT go conservative at ALL in this game. Keep the pedal on the metal for 4 full quarters.

My biggest concern will be the O line as they have not faced any thing close to what they will on Saturday. Better keep that tight end in there to help block.

FL Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
9:49 am

Expect to see MM exclusively on offense, thereby giving the Dawgs yet another target for Murray to hit. This Dawg offense will be too much for SC due to the unpredictability of who will get the ball. Defense will shut down the pass and clog the run. This will be a keystone win for the Dawgs.. Mark it! Go Dawgs!

FL Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
9:50 am

Clowney was blocked all game last year (save that one play Murray didn’t protect the ball). I’m not worried about him.

OLD DOG

October 2nd, 2012
10:12 am

Mitchell is an amazing “young man.” It is hard enough to learn one position much less two. Throw in special teams and you might as well put a cape on him. Let him settle in at wide receiver where he is comfortable. So we don’t run a punt back, we also don’t put the offence in a bad hole to start. Special teams did that twice against Tenn. We let Ten hang around due to field position.Do it Sat and we loose. No turnovers, no dumb pentlles and play assignment football and we will win. It ain’t rocket science.

gamewatcher

October 2nd, 2012
10:25 am

Has anybody heard some of the Carolina players talk? You can hardly understand them. They can’t put together a grammatically correct sentence if their life depended on it.How do they stay in school? Thugs…all of them…..and Spurrier doesn’t care…he’s an egotisical idiot….always has been. Dawgs win this game 31-17. Carolina is a second rate school….let’s face it…any school that once employed Lou Holtz as their football coach has got to have deep routed problems!

bill arp

October 2nd, 2012
10:33 am

Let’s see. We have M Brown, M Bennett, T King, M Mitchell, C Conley all at WR. The game is on the line. We need one first down. We throw the ball to R Wooten, and he drops the ball. WTH was he doing in the game at that point?!?? Just an honest question.

Oh, and this to the TE’s, keep up the GREAT work. I’ve numerous key blocks so far this season to spring a big run. Or even a two yard TD run for that matter.

Paddy

October 2nd, 2012
10:35 am

Chris Snow……I agree w/ most of your post except leaving the tight end to block alot. Once the defense sees that the te is blocking on most plays, your best receiver is always going to be double teamed. Traditionally, most big plays and completions for good yardage happen when the te is running a route.

Augustabred

October 2nd, 2012
10:35 am

I wonder why Scott-Wesley hasn’t been given a chance to return punts? They kid can fly and has good size on him also.

Augustabred

October 2nd, 2012
10:42 am

Speaking of Ramik Wilson, is he even playing? Haven’t seen him at all. What about Harrow? He was doing great on special teams last year. Shout to Meritt Hall; that kid is doing the damn thing at FB! His guy never makes the play once he puts the hammer down.