Malcolm Mitchell showed up on Georgia’s recruiting radar first as a cornerback before he came on as a playmaker at receiver.
The rising sophomore will now get another look on defense this spring for a depleted Bulldogs’ secondary after making an impact already at wideout in his first season in 2011.
“I know people have been talking about Malcolm Mitchell and, ‘Could he end up playing both ways?’ ” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Thursday. “Quite frankly, we’re going to experiment with that a little bit and see how much he can handle learning some cornerback.”
Richt was asked in bowl practices about the possibility of Mitchell seeing time at cornerback, but there is even more urgency now after the recent dismissals of Chris Sanders and Nick Marshall and the two-game suspension of starting cornerback Sanders Commings.
“It’s a lot thinner for sure right this minute,” Richt said. “It affects special teams play as well. Our cornerback position took a hit and our special teams, all of our special teams probably took a hit there. Do we have enough of a talent base on this team to still play at the level that we expect to play? I still believe we do. We may have to stretch guys a little bit here and there from a learning standpoint and getting more reps.”
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound Mitchell led Georgia and was fourth in the SEC in receiving yards per game during a season in which he had 45 catches for 665 yards and four touchdowns.
At Valdosta High, Mitchell was rated as the nation’s No. 1 cornerback by Rivals.com.
Richt also said there’s a chance that tailback Richard Samuel could work at fullback, too, something that had been shot down when the subject was broached late in the season.
Samuel began his Georgia career as a tailback, moved to linebacker and then back to tailback.
“We have got to make sure that we take the entire talent base of our football team and get the best players out there in whatever situations that we need them in,” Richt said. “If that means a guy playing both ways or playing two positions on defense or if it means the entire starting lineup on offense or defense playing special teams, whatever we’ve got to do to get the best players on the field, we’ve got to do that to take advantage of everybody’s abilities.”
That includes outside linebacker Ray Drew. Richt addressed whether he would be playing defensive end.
“We’ve kind of been doing that all along,” Richt said.
Drew, one of Georgia’s highest-profile recruits in 2011, played in seven games and had 119 total snaps as a freshman.
“Here’s the thing about our defense, it’s very versatile,” Richt said. “A guy at one time who might be standing up as a linebacker, the next play he’s got his hands on the ground rushing the passer. The flexibility of that has been going on since (defensive coordinator) Todd (Grantham) came in and did that.”
Richt also addressed Commings’ two-game suspension for the first time following his Jan. 21 arrest on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence.
“We don’t like anything like that,” Richt said. “We’re not going to have that kind of behavior. We don’t condone it. There’s always circumstances that some people know or don’t know. I wasn’t there, I certainly don’t know exactly for sure what happened, but I’ve got enough information to feel comfortable that he didn’t behave as well as he should and he’s going to have to live out a consequence for that.”
The other disciplinary issue this winter involved the dismissal of Sanders, Marshall and Seay. Sanders landed at Georgia Military College and Marshall is at a junior college in Kansas.
Richt didn’t shut the door for a return to Athens for the dismissed players.
“I’m not going to sit here and say 100 percent yes or 100 percent no,” he said. “They’re on this journey that they’ve got to take care of business. Maybe later on we can talk about the possibility of that, but I’m not really in position to say.”
NOTES: Improving specials team will be a top priority this spring when practices begin on March 20, but Richt said there won’t be any changes in coaching assignments for special teams units.
“We’re not changing who’s doing what, we’re just making sure we’re really comfortable with what we’re doing and very comfortable with the personnel that we put on these teams and also that we take the time that it takes to be good at it.” … Richt and Georgia continue to work on finalizing a contract extension of at least two years. Richt’s current deal runs through the 2013 season. “It’s going to happen in due time,” Richt said. “I don’t have any anxiety at all. There’s some different language in there. I don’t even know how to describe it, but when you rewrite a contract, there’s just things that everybody’s got to feel comfortable with. We’re just ironing out all those little things.” … Georgia could be close to adding a new member to its strength and conditioning staff. Sherman Armstrong from V.A.S.T Sports Performance in Tampa has interviewed in Athens. The former NCAA All-American sprinter from Illinois, who raced profesionally, told some websites Wednesday night that he had accepted the job, but Georgia said no hires have been made and that résumé and criminal background checks need to be completed before any offer can be finalized. “I’m highly considered,” Armstrong said Thursday. “We had a great interview (last week). I’m just in consideration. There’s nothing signed or anything.”