ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia’s high-scoring offense could feature a new weapon on Saturday against Tennessee.
Malcolm Mitchell, the Bulldogs’ second-leading receiver last season, has been a starting cornerback this season. That might soon change. He worked only on offense on Tuesday.
Coach Mark Richt said Mitchell will practice with the defense today. Richt won’t reveal his plans for Mitchell against the Vols.
“I would say his reps on offense will increase and his reps on defense will probably decrease, but it’s hard to say for sure on that,” Richt said Tuesday.
The talented Mitchell could be headed for a busy Saturday as a two-way player on offense and defense.
Even with Mitchell primarily at cornerback, No. 5 Georgia has scored more than 40 points in four consecutive games for the first time in school history.
Junior quarterback Aaron Murray, freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, and receivers Michael Bennett, Marlon Brown and Tavarres King have helped make it easy to forget that one of Georgia’s most talented offensive players has been starting on defense.
So how good could Georgia’s offense be with Mitchell making more than just cameo appearances?
“We can be pretty special,” Murray said. “We’re only going to continue to get better. I know our guys are hungry. We want to score 40 or 50 points per game, and we’re not going to be happy unless we do that.”
Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) set a school record with 713 total yards in a 56-20 win over Florida Atlantic on Sept. 15. The Bulldogs then rolled to a surprisingly easy 48-3 win over Vanderbilt last week.
Gurley was named Southeastern Conference freshman of the week after his 16 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns against Vanderbilt. He leads the SEC with 406 yards rushing. Marshall also ran for two touchdowns, including a 52-yarder.
“They’re great backs, two of the best I’ve seen thus far this year,” said Tennessee linebacker Herman Lathers. “They get downhill real quick. We’ve got to put a hat on them and try to slow them down.”
Gurley capped the win over Vanderbilt with a 29-yard touchdown run that amazed Murray.
“That was the greatest run I’ve ever seen in my life,” Murray said. “I’ve watched that film four or five times and watched that play over and over again. He broke like four or five tackles and was falling down but maintained his balance and stiff-armed a guy to the ground. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Murray said the team won’t be overconfident against Tennessee (3-1, 0-1 SEC).
“I really don’t see this group becoming complacent, thinking we’ve arrived and we’re just going to roll in every game and put 40 or 50 on it,” Murray said. “We know that’s not the case because this is the SEC and we’ll see a tough defense every week for the remainder of our schedule. We’re going to have to put the time in every week to get ready.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the strong opening month for Georgia’s offense has been the depth at receiver with little help from Mitchell. Five players have touchdown catches, including three by Brown and King.
Bennett, who leads the team with 19 catches for 275 yards, said there’s plenty of room in the receiver rotation for Mitchell.
“Malcolm coming over is just going to add more firepower to our offense,” Bennett said. We’re just ready for that to happen and get it going.”
Mitchell had 45 catches for 665 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Mitchell has two catches for 43 yards <0x2014> one in each of the last two games. He also has one carry for 16 yards and five punt returns for 35 yards.
He sat out Georgia’s opening win over Buffalo with an ankle injury.
Mitchell had three catches for 126 yards, including a 71-yarder for a touchdown, in Georgia’s 20-12 win at Tennessee last season.
“He’s fast,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said this week. “He’s a playmaker. He’s a return guy. He can hurt you. I think it says a lot about him, the fact that he can go play two positions on either side of the ball at this level.”
Mitchell moved to cornerback in spring practice as Georgia prepared to adjust for defensive back Sanders Commings’ two-game suspension.
The defense could be stronger this week if All-America safety Bacarri Rambo and starting linebacker Alec Ogletree return from four-game suspensions, as expected.
Richt again said Tuesday there will be no announcement on Rambo and Ogletree before Saturday.
“If they are in full gear there’s a good chance they’ll play,” Richt said.