The tug-of-war over Malcolm Mitchell looks to continue into the offseason. The need at cornerback is obvious, but so is Mitchell’s potential as a receiver. There will be several sub-plots to the story, and the readiness of guys like Blake Tibbs or Shaq Wiggins will nudge this story one direction or the other. If Alvin Kamara signs with Georgia, will he help in the role envisioned for the injured Tramel Terry?
To me, it comes down to schedule.
The early part of Georgia’s 2012 schedule shielded the Dawgs from much of the personnel chaos caused by the suspensions. That won’t be the case in 2013. They’ll face three ranked teams before the end of September. Mitchell claims that “he still was ‘rusty’ at receiver even by the Oct. 20 game against Kentucky when he had a career-high nine catches for 103 yards.” It was obvious that others affected, Ogletree for example, didn’t round into form until November. Mitchell noted that instincts got him far enough to get open, but longer runs like the final score against Florida require practicing technique. “That just comes with the offseason and I didn’t have the offseason at receiver,” he added.
Mitchell says bluntly that “I don’t want to play full-time defense.” He’s always going to consider himself a receiver who moonlights on defense. Georgia needs Mitchell (and everyone else) at top form out of the gate in those three big September games. Suspensions would be costly of course, but the coaches also need to move the timetable up on these personnel decisions that sometime linger well into August camp. Mitchell’s preference to be offense first means that he won’t have time (or motivation, really) to develop into the kind of cornerback he’d need to be to make the effort worthwhile.
The defense needs the help, but the offense could be truly special with Mitchell focused on that side of the ball. We know that’s his preference, and I expect that the coaches will realize the importance of Mitchell dedicating the offseason to perfecting his craft at receiver.
UPDATE: The assistants can tug all they want, but the Top Dawg has made it clear: Mitchell is a receiver. “I doubt he plays any more corner. I think he needs to play one position,” Mark Richt told the media on Tuesday. “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 is where he’s going to be.”