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

G-Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
10:50 am

Regardless of the outcome of this game, critics will still say Dawgs arent that good.

Just keep winning is all we can do!!

Buckshot

October 2nd, 2012
11:00 am

I just hope our Run Defense improves a lot before Saturday. We can not let SC run the ball. Have to make Shaw try to win it, then we can tee off on him.

RxDawg

October 2nd, 2012
11:20 am

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

OK, I had to say something here. I think that statement is completely wrong. I think the pass was dead on the money. Rome, being young, stopped running his route. If he would of kept running his route full speed then that ball would of dropped right into his hands and it would of been a TD.

Chris Mike

October 2nd, 2012
11:24 am

This is just me, I know we got somebody else to return punts besides a walkon. I liked Swain back there. What happen to him? Is it because he getting more plaaing time. I tell you right now that he is better than Smith at CB. He should start and Smith should be the nickel. Just a thought.

RxDawg

October 2nd, 2012
11:27 am

Swain is playing well. One of our best cover corners.

RNB

October 2nd, 2012
11:27 am

G-Dawg you are correct. The critics will be silenced only by success. You have to earn respect. Georgia has not done that yet. A win Saturday will go a long way to achieving respect. Unfortunately Georgia has lost alot of respect the last few years.

OkieDawg

October 2nd, 2012
11:36 am

@Augustabred…Ramik Wilson has played, mostly on goal line defense. Remember in the Vandy game when Washington gave Wilson an on-field lecture? Quantavious Harrow flunked out of UGA. They are trying to keep the redshirt on Scott-Wesley and have announced such.

OkieDawg

October 2nd, 2012
11:39 am

I agree Damian SWANN is playing well. He had a fantastic and very athletic interception against TN.

I-DOG

October 2nd, 2012
11:48 am

Bernie:

Murray did complete around 80% of his passes against a legit SEC team in TN. There is no serious talk about taking off the Mason redshirt. Murray is having a phenominal year and has to be considered in any conversation on who the best QB is in the SEC. Tough to name 2-3 that are having a better year in this league.

I don’t think anyone is saying that Mitchell is the best special teams players in the SEC. He is already playing both offense and defense, maybe asking him to play special teams as well as a Soph is a bit too much.

Chris Snow

October 2nd, 2012
11:49 am

My question is what the hell happened to Smith this year?? He is under achieving like crazy.

Chris Snow

October 2nd, 2012
11:53 am

One thing people haven’t really talked about the UT game was how often our D was on the field. The 70 + yard runs are great for high light reals, but it also puts your D RIGHT back onto the field. No wonder they were so gassed by the 4th quarter.

But I have to admit it’s fun to watch the kids break away for a TD like that.

Chris Snow

October 2nd, 2012
11:57 am

Paddy, that’s true. But heck we have so many good receivers, even if they are double teaming, one guy, the others should be able to make a play.

I just know SCAR’s defensive line is scary good, and our young O line (also Murray and Gurshal), need all the help they can get!

I-DOG

October 2nd, 2012
12:12 pm

If we can be no worse than -1 on turnovers, I think we have a real shot at winning this game.

When we are inside our own 30 yard line, I’d LOVE to see us under center more. Both Murray turnovers in the TN game came when he was in the shotgun deep in our own territory.

Once we get out over the 30, a turnover there still gives us a shot at holding their O to a field goal, so we can open it up more.

I’d also love to see us keep the tight end in to help with Clowney when we are inside our own 30 yard line as well for the same reason.

The last two games we have rarely had to punt (other than the 4th quarter when we had already scored 51 punts against TN).

If we hold onto the ball, we have a good chance of moving it and scoring with this offense. Lets be smart against SC deep in our own territory.

I-DOG

October 2nd, 2012
12:18 pm

51 points not punts. If we punt the ball 51 times against SC, we will lose

OkieDawg

October 2nd, 2012
12:31 pm

On Saturday, we will face 2 of the best defensive ends in college football. They scare me. If a team has one great DE, then you can run away from him or double team him. But with 2 DEs like Clowney and Taylor, you can’t do that. It would be a good time to install a version of the zone read to try and isolate those two. Oregon could neutralize Clowney and Taylor. I’m not sure Bobo can game plan around SC’s DEs.

CPJ could figure it out…seriously.

JayD

October 2nd, 2012
12:45 pm

FYI – Scott-Wesley redshirted last year.

tripwire

October 2nd, 2012
12:54 pm

gamewatcher,you sound like a klempzun troll.Personal attacks have never one any team a ball game,just sayin!.

Augustabred

October 2nd, 2012
1:28 pm

@OkieDawg; Didn’t know about Harrow. I thought that was Stripling he was getting on.Scott-Wesley redshirted last year and he played in the FAU game.

sorry coach

October 2nd, 2012
1:41 pm

These coaches don’t know who or when and where to play them.

OkieDawg

October 2nd, 2012
1:45 pm

You’re correct about Scott-Wesley, I lost a year…Thanks

McDawg

October 2nd, 2012
2:26 pm

why isn’t Branden Smith resturning punts?

Joey

October 2nd, 2012
2:30 pm

I wonder if Mitchell not playing D last Saturday had anything to do with the D not looking very good?

Joey

October 2nd, 2012
2:39 pm

Hey Artie Lynch and Jay Rome, UGA fans do know you two have been instrumental in the running game being eons better this season.

We do want to see y’all get the ball and make plays, too.

Keep up the great play.

joe jenkins

October 2nd, 2012
3:19 pm

I’m sick and tired of hearing that the defense is tired because the offense is scoring to fast….look last year we were one of the best teams in the nation at getting the other team off the field on 3rd down. now look at us…the ugly problem as reared again…just like in granthams first. year. JSW should be given a shot at punt returner…we have all this speed and we do nothing with it

UGA89

October 2nd, 2012
3:38 pm

German Shepherd Dawg…
It’s a fact that Aaron Murray is Jewish and I have no problem with that. He is just not as observant as other Jews.

UGA MAGIC

October 2nd, 2012
3:45 pm

Are you guys crazy….. Georgia to me is far more talented than SC. Yes, they have a 2 good DE’s, but their secondary is suspect. With the weapons we have on offense we should blow them out !!!! I can hear everyone now talking about our “D” but we will be fine. We match-up so much better than what most think. They don’t have the recievers they have had in the past, so we load the box and shutdown the run via Lattimore or Shaw and we win easy. TN game we played very soft in order for Bray not to be able to beat us. They had a lil success running the ball, but we really wasn’t concerned about the run. My DAWGS will be ready come sat. watch and see !!!! I feel like we will play with a little chip on our shoulder because of all of SP antics. We owe them, and I believe this is their payday from us. Gameday will be there to witness us with their own eyes. With that said, we may be able to get some of the respect we deserve. Let’s GO DAWGS !!!!!! GATA !!!!!!

CHDawg

October 2nd, 2012
3:53 pm

I try to be a positive fan, but I just don’t understand how we can mess punt returns up so badly and so consistently. Smith made the same exact mistakes repeatedly. It’s really simple, but using a former baseball outfielder is always good. You have to break on the ball early, running fast early in the kick and slowing down as you zero in on it. If you have to run up a lot, it will almost always be a fair catch. Extremely high kicks that you don’t run back on: likely a fair catch. Be aggressive about catching it, not returning risky kicks. They have to give you room when you throw the hand up, or they get the yellow hankie, so block out everybody and everything but the ball–you and the ball are the only ones on the field on a fair catch. *No* catchable ball touches the ground in front of you, and none but inside the 10 can hit behind. Don’t take chances; always secure the ball, and if all these criteria are met and you have room, run it back! Why can’t these smart young men get this pretty quickly? I hate not using 1 or 26 with their great speed, but some people just can’t catch fly balls. I realize the coaches know this stuff(and I certainly support them), but I just don’t see how we can keep making the same mistakes repeatedly. Rant off and Go Dawgs.

graphite

October 2nd, 2012
4:55 pm

Did Russ or is it UGA#whatever, come out of the house Sat? On nat’l t.v. and he lay’s up. Might change mascots.Golden Retrievers are friendly,and full of energy.This dog is an embarrasment.

Badland Dawg

October 3rd, 2012
9:56 am

give a game ball to # 88 lynch # 82 Bennett the full back he is a man playing with boys….give the ball to MR BENETT # 82 HE IS THE BEST RECEVER UGA HAS HAD IN A LONG TIME EVEN BETTER THAT GREEN….HE IS A GOOD ONE… SC D ENDS ARE VERY FAST AND BIG THEIR ARE GOING TO KNOT OUT #11 HE WILL DO WHAT HE ALWAYS DOES HAPPY FEET…..USC 31 UGA 14 #11 CAN NOT WIN BIG GAMES .. UGA SHOULD HAVE WON LAST YEARS MICH ST. GAME BUT THE QB PLAY WAS SO BAD…. AND THE PLAY CALLING WAS AS ALWAYS BAD… THERE YOU GO…. IT WOULD BE A GOOD THING IF #11 AND BOBO WOULD TAKE A LITTLE VACATION THIS WEEK TO FL. AND SPEND A FEW DAYS IN THE SUN….THEN UGA COULD PLAY SOME FOOTBALL….

Barry

October 3rd, 2012
1:39 pm

I think it is time to let Malcom Mitchell settle in to one position and really concentrate his significant athletic ability.

icon design

October 7th, 2012
8:27 pm