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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