Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell excited about getting ball in his hands against Florida

Malcolm Mitchell said there is nothing better to him than having the football in his hands and trying to make a play. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Malcolm Mitchell said there is nothing better to him than having the football in his hands and trying to make a play. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

ATHENS – In the first half of the Kentucky game this past Saturday, Malcolm Mitchell fielded a kickoff eight yards deep in his end zone. He took off to bring it out before Georgia’s Kyle Karempelis jumped in front with an emphatic stop sign at the goal line. Mitchell slammed on the brakes, then gave Karempelis a disgusted wave of contempt before taking a reluctant knee.

“I apologized later,” Mitchell said with a laugh. “I told Kyle, no matter what I say, do what you have to do and, if I try to run out of there, just tackle me right there in the end zone.”

Such is Mitchell’s mentality. He rarely fields a punt or a kick or takes a handoff or catches a pass he doesn’t think he can take “to the house.” That confidence coupled with Mitchell’s unique set of athletic gifts has made him into one of the league’s most dynamic play-makers. It also makes him one of the most unpredictable.

“Any time you touch the ball it means opportunity,” Mitchell said. “It means a chance to make plays.”

Mitchell got back to the business of making plays in earnest against the Wildcats, and he hope it continues against No. 2 Florida this weekend in Jacksonville. The sophomore from Valdosta, who spent the first third of the season playing defensive back, is now back to playing wide receiver full time and has also become the Bulldogs primary kick returner.

Against Kentucky, Mitchell accounted 164 all-purpose yards, including 103 yards receiving on a career-best nine receptions. His all-purpose total was robbed of a 33-yard run on a fake punt that was nullified due to an illegal formation penalty.

“There’s no better feeling than having the ball in your hand,” Mitchell said. “You want to make a play. People around me are really good about telling me, ‘Look, you can’t make a play every play. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing and wait for it to come.’ But it just feels good to be out there contributing.”

It’s not like he wasn’t before now. Mitchell started the first four games of the season at cornerback as the Bulldogs negotiated the suspensions of two defensive backs. He had 12 tackles and three pass break-ups on defense.

The original plan was for Mitchell to eventually play both ways. But since the return of free safety Bacarri Rambo in Game 5, Mitchell has been full time on offense and special teams.

Along with three kickoff returns for 64 yards and the nullified fake-punt run Mitchell touched the ball 14 times against Kentucky. Georgia coaches hope he gets it at least that much every game the rest of the year, including Saturday against the Gators. Mitchell is thrilled with the developments.

“I didn’t realize I got it that much,” he said. “That’s good. It feels natural to me. Now it’s just a matter of getting back in that groove.”

Mitchell’s role is starting to resemble the one the Bulldogs envisioned for him after last season. He finished with 702 all-purpose yards in just 11 games to earn Freshman All-SEC honors last year.

“Malcolm loves football, obviously,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “He loves offense, defense and special teams. He loves to play, and he wants to make plays and be significant every time he’s in the game. We think that he has a lot of bravery and speed and agility to be a good kick return man. You have to have some nerve back there. He’s starting to become much more productive as a wide receiver and getting more opportunities and getting more comfortable. So, I hope he continues to improve in all areas because he’s a very talented guy.”

Mitchell’s confidence has gotten him into trouble from time to time, too. He fielded a bouncing punt in a crowd against Missouri and ended up fumbling the ball away and had difficulty making decisions overall as a punt returner, generally choosing to field it no matter the situation. As a result, he had to relinquish those duties to junior Rhett McGowan, who’s less of a play-maker but a better decision-maker.

“That’s OK,” Mitchell said. “If the coaches think Rhett’s the best guy for the job, I’m all for it. I’m over there on the sideline rooting for him harder than anybody.”

Of course, special teams play will be crucial against Florida, which is ranked among the nation’s best in both coverage and returns. The Gators created two special teams turnovers in a 44-11 win over South Carolina last week in Gainesville.

It should come as no surprise that Mitchell is not at all intimidated. In fact, he’s particularly pumped because he was unable to play in this game last year due to a hamstring injury. Mitchell is nicknamed “Tampa” because he lived there from age 2 to 12 before moving back to Valdosta.

“They run hard, so we’ve got to block hard,” Mitchell said. “They’ve got a lot of good players on their kickoff team, but we’ve got a lot of good people on our kick return team. We’ve just got to execute and take care of that like we do in any phase of the game.”

62 comments Add your comment

Land O' Lakes Dawg

October 25th, 2012
1:19 pm

Good luck “Tampa” Mitchell from down here in Florida. It looks like its going to be windy so we have to be able to run the ball but still take a few shots through the air.

Here we Go

October 25th, 2012
1:45 pm

Better hold on to the ball this Sat. Gators will try to stripe it on kickoffs and punt returns.They do it on every return.Other teams turnovers are the key to them winning.HOLD ON TO THE BALL!!

Here we Go

October 25th, 2012
1:51 pm

Sorry—–strip

Outer Banks Dawg

October 25th, 2012
2:16 pm

Any word from the coaches regarding Kevin Butler’s suggestion of putting 2 men back deep for punts?
I’d like to see McGowan and Mitchell back on punts together so they only have to worry about half the field. And they could help each other make decisions. Also, we could run a Rhett to Mitchell reverse on a punt return… You might have to practice that one.

Richt is too worried about losing practice time for offense and defense to commit practice time to special teams. Special teams is 1/3 of the game. It should get 1/3 of the practice time.
Coach Richt always cites NCAA rules about the restrictions on practice time and # of coaches as an excuse for poor execution in the special teams. You don’t hear muschamp complaining about these problems. He realizes special teams play can be more important than offense and defense. It’s also great conditioning in practice running the length of the field to cover kicks.

Florida QB Jeff Driskol, ‘We work on special teams all the time. Players take pride in making it onto the special teams units.’

We need this same mentality.

GatorBait 18-4

October 25th, 2012
2:18 pm

the dawgs have great players, the Gators have great players, the Gators have better coaches—————–end of story

Chilidawg

October 25th, 2012
2:20 pm

I cringe everytime Mitchell handles a kickoff or punt. He has made bad decisions earlier this season and I fear he will royally screw something up before the season ends.

GatorBait 18-4

October 25th, 2012
2:22 pm

Outer Banks Dawg

You are exactly right and make my point about coaching. You be careful up there, there is a big breeze headed your way.

El-Toro GATA

October 25th, 2012
2:35 pm

I look forwrd to see middleLB play like Odell Thurman or Tony Gilbert and a safety like Thomas Davis! is this too much to ask for
I agree with William’s comment! we are soft

Outer Banks Dawg

October 25th, 2012
2:38 pm

Thanks Gator Bait… we’re pretty much used to tropical stuff around here this time of year. i plan on watching the game with my mon & dad at the beach cottage in Nags Head. It will probably be blowing pretty good outside and raining for sure. I’m thinking Black Bean Chili, Steamed Oysters, collards, and cornbread….and prolly some cold beer. Dad will want to know if Richt is ever gonna win the big game, and I will be on the edge of my seat hoping its a Dawg gone good day.

Rain is the great equalizer… However, I fear what advantage Florida will gain if the field is sloppy in Jax. Edge always goes to trenches in a sloppy field game. Gotta get Gurley some blocks up front, and Murray some time.

Preacher Dawg

October 25th, 2012
2:41 pm

Mitchell believes he can take it to the house every time he touches it and sooner than later it will happen, he is due. I like his wreckless abandonment attitude…just win. Go Dawgs, Sic’em!

GatorBait 18-4

October 25th, 2012
2:44 pm

Outer Banks Dawg

Rain is the great equalizer… However, I fear what advantage Florida will gain if the field is sloppy in Jax. Edge always goes to trenches in a sloppy field game.

I’ve got to agree again, the Gators love the mud, why do think they play in the “Swamp” :)

lol

October 25th, 2012
2:46 pm

win or lose, richt needs to be gone.

azdawg

October 25th, 2012
2:46 pm

Mitchell’s enthusiasm for returning kicks while not protecting the ball or taking a knee when he should will not work vs FL’s ST’s. They’re real good at creating TO’s, and the dawgs have the dubious record of obliging them. If the dawgs lose I hope its not because they gave the game away on TO’s.

Dawg Fan

October 25th, 2012
2:53 pm

Please stop it with the CMR bashing….he is a great coach and his record stacks up againt anybody’s. Can’t all of you see this constant Coach bashing is hurting recruiting….

Bremen Dawg

October 25th, 2012
3:03 pm

Aww, how sweet Gator Bait and Outer Banks.

Biff

October 25th, 2012
3:15 pm

Mitchell’s one of the few chances Georgia has for winning the game, hopefully he’ll have his head on straight. Of course it won’t matter if Murray continues his trend of lackluster big game performances.

Titletown USA

October 25th, 2012
3:17 pm

Good to see one of our former Cats getting some shine…this kid is special. I think the fact that he thinks he can take it the house everytime….scared money don’t make none!!!

DJ Dawg

October 25th, 2012
3:37 pm

@Dawg Fan Amen!! Couldnt have said it better myself!

Vampire Bill

October 25th, 2012
3:38 pm

I think Murray will be fine and I’d love to see Mitchell have a monster game. Like many of said it will come down to coaching and just based on the last two games UGA is in trouble.

GatorBait 18-4

October 25th, 2012
3:38 pm

Bremen Dawg

Funny how jerks don’t understand gentlemen————but I can assure you there will be nothing gentle about the beatin ya’ll get this weekend.

Roll Tide with Pride!!!

October 25th, 2012
3:41 pm

Guys – I am rooting for you this weekend. However, I just do not see it happening.

Why?
1. Richt and UGA have not had a WIN against a top flight team since 2007.
2. UGA’s record is a product of a very easy schedule – and basically plays 2 ranked teams this year: USCe and FLorida.
USCe is overrated – as LSU and Florida beat them down.
USCe was beating UGA 35-0 with a minute left in the game.
3. The O-Line is perpetualy under rebuild – not reload.
4. The Defenses – with all of it’s talent – is abysmal – Kentucky ran over 200 yards on UGA’s abysmal excuse for a defense and except for Vandy – has not been good at all this year.

Florida is going to to undress UGA and it is going to be ugly.
Kudos to Muschamp – he is bringing intensity to the program – and they play with conviction and a sense of urgency. Florida has improved as the season has evolved – UGA is the same team as they were in August.

Guys – UGA has been at times – and should be one of college footballs crown jewels.
UGA has not beaten an elite team in 5 years.
Look at last year – the 4 decent teams UGA played – they lost.

So what are you going to do after Saturdays beat down?????

And I need to warn you – if this team starts feeling sorry for itself – Ole Miss is capable of beating UGA – so upsert alert next weekend after the Florida game.

So here UGA goes again – could finish the season 10-2 or 9-3.
And yet- they are only beating the bottom half of teams in the college football.

Come on UGA fans – since when is mediocrity acceptable between the hedges!
Richt is a great great man – caring, does so much for others – but he las lead the UGA football program to being an average team.

RTR

Bleed Swag

October 25th, 2012
3:42 pm

Is it me or should Gurley or even Marshall be returning KO’S and Punts this weekend. Rhett makes good decisions but Gurley didn’t look to bad back there in the first game….. we need an explosion on returns and one of them should be doing it!

Go Dawgs – Bleed Swag!

Bleed Swag

October 25th, 2012
3:44 pm

Tide they still give us chances to change the history you always throw up so at some point you’re going to cash in….

Music City Dawg

October 25th, 2012
3:53 pm

Malcome – I like your attitude and appreciate that you want to “take it to the house” on every play. Kudos for you!!! but…you’ve got to learn to be smarter and realize you are part of a team and running it out of the end zone on a kickoff may not be the smartest play. Let your teammates help you be a “complete” player. GATA!!!!

Outer Banks Dawg

October 25th, 2012
3:55 pm

Haha. I hope the dawgs come to play.

Roll Tide with Pride!!!

October 25th, 2012
4:03 pm

Heard this the other day.

Mark Richt is the Dale, JR of the SEC.
– runs with the top half – but never wins the race.- yet the fans love him!

Again my UGA friends – since when is being mediocre acceptable between the hedges.
What has UGA done in the last 5 years.
UGA is in front of the bell curve of average teams – but way behind the elites .
After the beatdown this weekend – maybe more UGA fans will realize that if UGA wants to run with the teams in the front of the pack – you are going to have to make a change.

Alabama understands that it is not about just being competitive and beating the bottom teams – it is about winning the big games – and titles included.

Hey, Ohio State let John Cooper go – the guy was a lot like Richt. A great human being – but could not win the big game – and never beat Michigan. Florida owns UGA – and that will be proven again this Saturday ….. and it will get ugly as Florida will totally own both lines come 4Q.

I hate it for Richt and Bobo – but if mediocrity is acceptable to UGA – then be happy being perpetually the 5th, 6th or 7th best team in the SEC.

Here is my SEC ranking:
1. ALABAMA
2. Florida
3. LSU
4. MIss State
5. USCe
6. Texas A&M
7-8 (tie). UGA/ARK (if ARK and UGA played tomorrow – my money is on ARK as they are now playing well .)
9. Ole Miss
10. Vandy
11. Tennessee
12. Mizzou
13.Auburn
14.Kentucky

[...] this article: Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell excited about getting ball in his hands against Florida ← Back to Home Tags: athens, florida gators, football, georgia bulldogs, [...]

GatorBait 18-4

October 25th, 2012
4:30 pm

Roll Tide with Pride!!!

You know your football————-but Richt and Dale Jr———-PRICELESS!

See you in Atlanta, hope to give you a better game than last meeting.

World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

October 25th, 2012
4:37 pm

HoneyBadger Has the Munchies

October 25th, 2012
4:44 pm

Georgia….make UF pass, stop thier run. Minimize turnovers. Murray…relax and pick apart thier secondary…..pass blocking permitting that.

World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

October 25th, 2012
4:45 pm

Georgia will beat Florida and
LSU will knock Alabama out of the SEC Championship again.

HoneyBadger Has the Munchies

October 25th, 2012
4:47 pm

Worlds…I like your thinking

Agusta Dawg

October 25th, 2012
4:49 pm

Even if Dawgs win by 40 points and go on to become national champions. CMR should still be fired.

RUSH PROPSTS WET HANKY

October 25th, 2012
4:49 pm

why does roll tide think anyone gives a flying dawg turd about your “sec rankings”

you are obviously an legend in your own mind

do you realize what an embarrasment your fanbase has made of itself in the last 18 months? tree poisoning and sodomizing drunks

just proves that the family trees in bama dont provide much shade

Augusta Dawg

October 25th, 2012
4:50 pm

Thats Augusta Dawg fake UGA fans

Smitty

October 25th, 2012
5:02 pm

RUSH….now that is funny right there…I don’t care what they think that ifs funny. And BTW overall record against each other, Georgia 47 Florida 40….things were just getting a little more even until Georgia puts another run on Florida.

F U G A

October 25th, 2012
5:05 pm

AAAH HAAA HAAAAAA! Oh sorry – I’m two days early.
You think that’s Hurricane Sandy coming up from Florida?

Smitty

October 25th, 2012
5:06 pm

Bama has a few good years and they are all crowing again…..what ya going to do when your boy Saban leaves and it is about time for his departure. Check out his longevity record. Then it is back to middle of the west again. Enough it while you can and then just go crawl back under porch.

Smitty

October 25th, 2012
5:07 pm

I like most Bama fans but some are just TuRRDDSS

Smitty

October 25th, 2012
5:12 pm

and Mississippi State has played who so far?

Salty Dawg

October 25th, 2012
5:19 pm

Something tells me the DAWGS show up Saturday…..I do hope so!! Roll tide you guys better be up for your game this will be the best team you guys have faced so far.

FtWorthDawg

October 25th, 2012
5:19 pm

Is it too much to ask to let Mitchell get the ball 12 yards DOWN the field instead of 5 yards BEHIND the line of scrimmage. last time I checked we had plenty of good, capable running backs behind Aaron Murray ready and willing to tote the rock.

Swamp Thing

October 25th, 2012
5:22 pm

Wx for Saturday – I live in Jax, and I’ve heard everything from 10 to 80% chance of rain. The Gator Bowl ll is where like in Gainesville “Only Gators get out alive”..As for Malcolm Mitchell – have you even looked at UF’s kicking game and special team coverage. Maybe CMR is afraid to show you that film.

ARdawg

October 25th, 2012
5:43 pm

Swamp thing
you guys are 7-0, look pretty good and beat a few good teams. You’re far from world beaters. Don’t let that false sense of entitlement #2 ranking go to your head. The season ain’t over with yet

Pete

October 25th, 2012
5:54 pm

Sounds great- but we hear this all the time…all of a sudden everyone wants to do everything…excited to get ball in his hand? was he excited to show something last week???? This team has had what? 7 weeks to show something…..and wa la this is the week the light buld goes on??????? bottom line- 6-1 is a crap record when 6 have been losers…..and 1 was the good team…AND we have looked like crap against all of the 6 losers except vandy….time to shut up and prove it on the field….like REAL teams do

Game Changer

October 25th, 2012
6:08 pm

FYI UGS FAN–

UGA AD McQuackity is mad at Matt and Chernoff of 680 the fan. Seems Richt is very upset with some things they stated after the pounding at the hands of South Carolina and McQuackity is running around trying to press 680 the fan.

McQuackity — please focus on the reason for such statements by media and fans – No one at UGA seems to be ACCOUNTABLE OR DISPLAYING LEADERSHIP IN BUTTS MEHRE, most of us felt you would bring a more direct approach demanding ACCOUNTABILITY AND LEADERSHIP but you don’t even demand it of yourself. You have proven to be lazier than Richt and spew more excuses than anyone before you as AD. Your grade as the AD at UGA is an F. With such a strong arm tactic for head women sports coaches maybe you should be at an all girl school. STEP UP or you will find yourself looking for a job very soon.

JRW7

October 25th, 2012
6:45 pm

CMR pads his record with wins over below average teams, 6 wins this year, the 6 teams that the DAWGS have beat this season is 12-31, not very good? CMR will have 10 wins again this season! I hope the DAWGS beat the Gators, but my heart tells me no!

Destin Dawg

October 25th, 2012
6:50 pm

UGA 28 Fla. 24… Romney 53 Obama 47… go Dawgs… go Mitt !!!

JRW7

October 25th, 2012
6:54 pm

CMR can’t win the big game, and Sat at JAX is a BIG game! DAWGS have the talent to win, because CMR is a great recruiter, but CMR is a poor motivator, and a very poor coach! Maybe the ole ball coach was right, UGA gets all that talent, but I don’t know what happens to them when they get there!

GatorBait 18-4

October 25th, 2012
6:56 pm

I just don’t get, McGarity spent 20 years with the #1 AD in the country at UF-I couldn’t believe the contract extention after last year, just don’t get it. UGA has great player and Richt does nothing with them——truely sad. Just take a look at what Muschamp has done at UF, change does work ifr you are smart.