Mitchell considering time at cornerback

TAMPA — The nickname goes back to high school, when Malcolm Mitchell had just moved to Valdosta and one of his coaches couldn’t remember his name, only where he had come from.

Mitchell considering time at cornerback
Greg Auman

His college teammates now still call him “Tampa,” and Georgia’s true freshman receiver has fond memories of living there from about age 3 to 11, with relatives still living there as well.

Though he was born in Valdosta, his first football was played in Florida, at a YMCA in the Largo area.

“I know some parts and some areas,” Mitchell said. “I was real young, so I didn’t know all the places I’d probably go now. I’ve been (to Raymond James Stadium). We used to take field trips there. Hopefully some people remember me from playing when I was little.”

It’s hard to imagine a coach not knowing Mitchell’s name now, after a freshman year in which he led the Bulldogs in receiving yards (614) despite missing three games with a hamstring injury. He finished with 38 catches and four touchdowns, showing a desire to learn the offense in a hurry ever since he got to campus.

“He got here in June and he’s done an unbelievable job of learning the playbook,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “Every day, asking me ‘What’s this play? What’s this play? How do I run this route?’ He did a great job of understanding most of the playbook before camp even started, then finishing up his knowledge once camp started. I think that’s why he’s been able to do so well this year, just the time he put in this summer.”

Georgia coach Mark Richt said he had heard high praise about Mitchell before he even got to two-a-days, with rave reviews coming out of summer voluntary workouts.

“You talk to the veterans about what’s happening in the summer workouts. I remember (senior cornerback Brandon) Boykin (saying), ‘Coach, he might be the best receiver and DB we’ve got.’ He was being a little facetious, but he knew he had a lot of talent. We weren’t surprised that once we got to practicing, he was a guy who was going to be a playmaker.”

Mitchell was highly regarded in high school as a cornerback — he chose Georgia over suitors such as Alabama — and he said Tuesday that he might consider moonlighting as a cornerback in 2012 if coaches see a need.

“Just working hard, coming in and staying focused,” Mitchell said of his priorities for his freshman year. “(Learning quickly), it makes stuff easier, slows the game down. I don’t think you ever stop learning.”

Boykin has made cameos on offense, with 95 yards and a touchdown on five carries, and Richt wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Mitchell dabbling on defense, though he feels confident in the cornerbacks returning next season.

“We have guys play a little bit of both ways, though we do try to focus on one position in Year 1,” Richt said. “If they have enough of a comfort level, knowing what to do, then we can begin to share a little bit. I wouldn’t be against it, whatever it takes to help Georgia win.”

NOTES: The Bulldogs have a strong Tampa presence with Murray, tight end Orson Charles and linebacker Ramik Wilson, but Richt stressed that he won’t venture into Florida for recruiting unless he needs to do so. “If there’s a player in the state of Florida that we can’t find in our state, we’ll go after those guys,” he said. “Every once in a while, there’s just a kid who has a love for Georgia. We do send coaches into this state every year, but Georgia’s a great state for recruiting. We don’t need to do a lot out of state, but when we do, we hope it’s a special person and player. That’s what’s been happening out of Tampa, that’s for sure.”

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