Recently junior receiver Malcolm Mitchell was named to the Paul Hornung Award Watch List.
Is it me, or is Mitchell one of the least-discussed stars on the Georgia team? I don’t mean he’s unknown or even underappreciated – it’s just that you don’t hear much about him when talking about Georgia’s keys to success this year. I’m sure a part of it is that he’s known and established and we know what we’re going to get, and it’s also possible that his injuries have tempered expectations for him to stand out.
There’s also a question of production. Mitchell’s catches and total yardage were down from his freshman season, but he missed three games due to injury. He was also pressed into service as a cornerback to start 2012, so the fact that he only posted 6 catches for 74 yards in September isn’t an indictment. He ramped up his production in October and had at least three catches in every remaining SEC game. But he only had one 100+ yard game in 2012 and ended the year with as many touchdowns – 4 – as he had as a freshman.
I’m not down on Mitchell – this December article explains a lot of what was going on. Between the injuries and the position uncertainty, he really hasn’t had time to focus on being a receiver. Despite that, he’s maintained an outstanding catch rate over his two seasons and has come up with brilliant plays like this one against Florida that have earned him a reputation as a star receiver. Now he’s a full-time receiver and expected to be a standout as a starter in the passing game.
Steele has Mitchell as a preseason 2nd-team All-SEC pick. That’s about right (and the first-teamers are good choices), but the potential is there for a healthy Mitchell to really make a move this year. The “healthy” part is easier said than done, but if Murray has the kind of year we hope for, someone is going to be catching some passes. Murray began to diversify his targets in the last third of 2012, but there are still going to be primary targets. Mitchell’s consistently high catch rate makes him a likely choice to shine as that primary target.
We’ll also have to see if Mitchell will have a chance to add to his impact again with special teams. He’s the returning kickoff returner, but his results were hit-and-miss last year. With him atop the receiver depth chart now and injuries either a predisposition or an unlucky coincidence, Georgia might take more care to have their top receiver available to catch the ball.