ATHENS – The Malcolm Mitchell debate is a debate no more.
Mark Richt put an abrupt end to the speculation over what the sophomore’s role on the team will be going forward.
“What do I think (his role) is going to be? Wide receiver,” Richt said matter-of-factly after Tuesday’s practice. “I doubt he plays any more corner.”
Mitchell, a sophomore who played both cornerback and split end this season, expressed mixed emotions recently about continuing his career as a two-way player. Meanwhile, Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham each said this week they’d like to have him full-time on their respective sides of the ball, but ultimately deferred to Richt.
Richt was able to weigh in on it publically for the first time on Tuesday, and he didn’t pussyfoot around the issue.
“I just think he needs to play one position,” he said. “. . . If he’s going to be the best he can be at either position, I think he needs to concentrate on just one of them, and receiver’s where he’s going to be.”
Quarterback Aaron Murray was especially happy with that decision.
“I saw a tweet on that and I’m happy for Malcolm,” Murray said. “I talked to him about it and I think he feels great about just being able to focus on one position. I know he wants to think big and play offense and defense and special teams. I mean, it’s tough playing all those positions. I’m definitely happy he’s back on offense, that’s for sure.”
Mitchell came to Richt last spring and volunteered to play both ways. The Bulldogs entered the season without cornerback Sanders Commings (2 games) and safety Bacarri Rambo (4 games) due to disciplinary suspensions and the status of cornerback Branden Smith was unclear until preseason camp. Mitchell, a 6-foot-1, 184-pound sophomore, was an all-star cornerback at Valdosta High and was originally recruited to play the defensive side of the ball.
Mitchell played this first third of this season as a cornerback, starting three games and accounting for 12 tackles and 3 pass break-ups in that time. After Rambo returned in Game 5, Mitchell returned to playing offense full time. He finished the season with 572 yards and four touchdowns.
Mitchell made his mark at Georgia as a freshman wide receiver. He piled up 665 yards receiving and four touchdowns despite missing three games with injuries his first season.
Mitchell said this past Friday he’d pick offense if he had to choose one or the other. But Georgia is losing its entire starting secondary after this season and Mitchell said he would consider playing defense again if “the team needs me.”
An online poll of AJC readers agrees with Richt’s decision. Sixty-six percent of nearly 3,000 voters said they’d rather see Mitchell play receiver full time than play both ways or defense only.