ATHENS, Ga. — With a suspension looming for cornerback Sanders Commings and presumably for All-Southeastern Conference safety Bacarri Rambo, much has been made of Georgia’s lack of defensive depth for the first two games of the season.
Branden Smith and Damian Swann return at cornerback to make up for the absence of Commings, a former Westside star, and sophomore Corey Moore should fill in if Rambo sits out.
In order to add depth, the Bulldogs moved Malcolm Mitchell from wide receiver to cornerback this off-season, and Mitchell is making his presence felt against the players at his former position, Marlon Brown said.
“It’s pretty fun. When he was on offense, he always talked trash to people. On defense he does the same thing,” said Brown, a senior. “We are just out there having fun and competing – trying to make each other better.”
Brown admits going one-on-one against Mitchell isn’t always fun.
“He’s quick. He’s real quick,” Brown said. “If he jams you at the line, and you beat him really bad, you’re like, ‘I got him.’ You look back, and he’s still in your hip pocket and you’re like, ‘I thought I just left you at the line.’”
Georgia coach Mark Richt told the media Wednesday that Mitchell will play some wide receiver in Georgia’s opener Saturday vs. Buffalo, but the coaching staff will decide next week how much time he will see on offense.
Quarterback Aaron Murray hopes Mitchell’s time at cornerback is short-lived.
The redshirt junior pointed out that Mitchell learned skills on offense that will help him at his new position.
“Not talking trash, but defensive backs play on defense for a reason. Their ball skills, for most of them, aren’t as good as a receiver’s,” said Murray. “With Malcolm, if you put a 50-50 ball up in the air, he has a great chance to make a play out of it. He just has such great ball skills. They work a lot on drills of going up high and catching the ball. He’s looked good out there.”
Still, both Brown and Murray quickly disagreed with the notion that the cornerback version of Malcolm Mitchell would beat the receiver Malcolm Mitchell in a one-on-one situation.
“I’m trying to get him back to the offensive side, so I gotta talk him up offensively,” Murray said.
With Mitchell’s move to defense, many Georgia fans are wondering who will become Murray’s go-to target this season. With a bevy of wide receivers returning this season, Murray said the cupboard is far from empty.
Brown, Tavarres King, Rantavious Wooten, Chris Conley, Michael Bennett and Rhett McGowan saw playing time in 2011 and will be counted on this season.
With King showing his deep-threat ability against Michigan State in the Outback Bowl, Murray said other receivers are ready to show that they, too, can be counted on downfield.
“Rantavious Wooten, he’s right there with Tavarres as someone who can get open and make a play when the ball is in the air deep,” Murray said. “I’m looking for him to make some big time plays down the field.”
Redshirt freshman Justin Scott-Wesley joins the experienced group of receivers after redshirting last fall and running track this spring.
“You also have Justin Scott-Wesley, and he’s one of the fastest guys in the SEC,” Murray said. “You get him on the run and let that ball fly, and he’s going to make a play for you.”
‘All hands in’ the motto for defensive ends
When Georgia’s DeAngelo Tyson suffered an injury early against Georgia Tech last season, defensive line coach Rodney Garner turned to then-sophomore Garrison Smith to bookend the line opposite Abry Jones.
Smith finished the game with seven tackles, received SEC co-defensive lineman of the week honors and earned the start in the SEC Championship game against LSU.
This season, with Tyson gone to the NFL, the defensive ends have made depth a priority.
“We’re going to need all hands in this year because you need depth,” said Smith, who has taken a role in teaching and encouraging younger defensive ends – sophomore Ray Drew, redshirt freshman Sterling Bailey and redshirt sophomore Mike Thornton.
“They’re getting better,” Smith said. “You have to motivate them and keep their heads up, giving them constructive criticism. It’s a team effort and everybody has to work together.”
The Bulldogs have worked Cornelius Washington at defensive end this offseason after playing outside linebacker last year.
Even Georgia’s two noseguards, John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers, may see playing time at the defensive end position this fall. Smith likes what he sees from the newcomers at his position.
“Cornelius is an edge guy, so he can put some pass-rush moves on the guards and just use his quickness,” said Smith, who broke a smile when discussing Geathers and Jenkins. “They (Geathers and Jenkins) aren’t use to playing it. It looks funny when they’re out there, but they can do it because they’re good football players.”