March 25, 2013

Standing out in a crowd

If you've seen the Georgia football team's version of the "Harlem Shake" video, it's not hard to pick wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell out from the rest of the crowd.

The Valdosta native is the one up front - shirtless and hopping around with a black umbrella - while his teammates gyrate in the background to their own personal groove.

"They just thought it was a good idea, so I went ahead and did it," laughed Mitchell, who in two years with the Bulldogs has managed to stand out equally as well on the football field.

With 85 career catches for 1,237 yards and eight touchdowns, Mitchell has proven to be a valuable offensive weapon for the Bulldogs, who will be counting on him for more of the same this fall.

"I feel good. The mindset is just to get better every day," Mitchell said. "You look at it how it's been since I got here, I've really had only my freshman year to get better at receiver so this is a chance for me to make a big jump; I just got to take it day-by-day."

By now Mitchell's story is a familiar one.

A former 5-star cornerback in high school, Mitchell played wide receiver his freshman season with the Bulldogs, before switching back to corner for the start of 2012 while Georgia's was dealing with absences due to the suspensions in the defensive backfield.

Mitchell eventually moved back to wide receiver full time, catching 40 passes for 572 yards. According to head coach Mark Richt, his days of moving are over.

So how good does Mitchell think he can become now that he's got just the one position to focus on?

"I think I can get a lot better," he said. "Just off of some of the things last year that didn't go my way, now I know how to make sure those things do go my way."

Such as?

"Oh, just things like catches, jams, coverages - all the little stuff," said Mitchell, who above all else just hopes he is able to stay healthy all season for the first time in his career.

Injuries cost Mitchell three games in 2011 and one contest last fall, causing many to wonder what his numbers might be like otherwise.

"We're going to see. We'll see what happens." Mitchell said. "I know up to those games (where he got hurt) and when I came back from being hurt I did well, so we'll see how it goes."

But despite the missed time, Mitchell doesn't concern himself with what might have been.

"Naw, I don't time for that. I'm not going to let the past drag me down," he said. "I'm going to keep moving forward."

He's also going to keep working hard.

Last Thursday, Mitchell was a number of current Bulldog players watching their former teammates go through their paces at Pro Day, knowing one day in the not-to-distant future, that's going to be him.

"You see those guys and it makes you want to it. You see T.K. (Tavarres King), who I played with for two years and see how he's matured, how he's become a better receiver," Mitchell said. "You see the opportunity he has and the chance he has, but you also see what he had to do to get there. It makes you want to do the same thing and work as hard as he did."

Mitchell said he learned a lot playing with King, as well as Marlon Brown, but there is another current member of the Bulldogs' receiving corps who continues to help in very much the same way.

"Rantavious is still mentoring me even though he's been here for a while, little stuff that I wasn't able to pick up last year because of the defensive move," Mitchell said. "I'm telling you he's there every play letting me know what could have been done. He's made it that much better, so I've got a lot of respect for Woot."

From the looks of it, Mitchell won't be pigeonholed into one spot while he's playing wide receiver for the Bulldogs.

According to Mitchell, position coach Tony Ball continues to work him at both the X and the Y.

"They're just moving me around, trying to find out what's best for the team," Mitchell said. "Running a route is running a route. It's all the same fundamentally. You've just got to know what you're doing."