ATHENS, Ga. -- When Hutson Mason studied film of Clemson’s defense this summer, Georgia’s starting quarterback saw ways where the Bulldogs could take advantage of Malcolm Mitchell’s skill set to make plays in the opener on Aug. 30.
That’s what made the news that the explosive wide receiver underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Thursday “to address a cartilage injury,” a blow to the Bulldogs’ offense and put his availability to start the season in question. Mitchell sustained a torn ACL to the same knee in the opener last year that knocked him out for the season.
“There’s no way to sugarcoat it,” Mason said. “I think it’s definitely going to, I wouldn’t say hurt, but you miss a guy like Malcolm. That’s just one of those guys where you find a way to get him the ball and let him do what he does best by just getting him the ball.”
The Bulldogs opened preseason practices Friday afternoon without Mitchell, who they had expected to be ready to go after a left leg injury this spring.
The second-team preseason All-SEC pick, who has 85 catches for 1,237 yards and eight touchdowns at Georgia, sustained the injury earlier this week while running routes with his teammates.
Coach Mark Richt said that he won’t “make any guesstimate on when he’ll play. He’s going to play when he’s healthy and ready to go. …We’ll just see how quickly he can come back.”
Mason may not have receiver Justin Scott-Wesley to throw to early in the season either.
The junior is expected to miss the Clemson game as a suspension for his possession of marijuana arrest last fall, but Richt left it lingering if he’ll be back for game two against South Carolina.
Scott-Wesley is returning from a torn ACL and MCL sustained Oct. 5.
“I’m not sure when he’s going to really be able to play a game of football for us,” Richt said. “We think it will be this season. He’s moving along but he didn’t move along quite as quick as some of the others.”
Scott-Wesley practiced in a regular jersey Friday with a brace on his right knee and didn’t have the burst that he did pre-injury.
Mason said his mood was dampened Thursday night when he got word of Mitchell’s injury.
“I went and spoke with him and a good group of guys went and prayed for him,” Mason said. “He is upset, too. You can’t explain four injuries. You can’t really drink more milk or anything like that. It’s just the crazy anatomy of the body. He’s definitely frustrated. The good thing is that’s it’s not another ACL injury and there is a quick turnaround so he’ll definitely be back soon.”
Senior receiver Michael Bennett: “I just hate it for Malcolm. He’s just been hurt for a year straight. It just sucks for him. It all happens for a reason, and I just try to tell him that.”
Mitchell also missed the 2012 opener with a sprained ankle and three games with a hamstring injury in 2011.
Mason isn’t sure how long he’ll be sidelined this time.
“They said sooner than later,” he said.
Richt visited Mitchell Friday morning.
“A big Malcolm Mitchell smile, he’s got his books ready to read,” Richt said. “He’s kind of been through this rehab thing before. If you go by the countenance on his face, his spirit is excellent. He is a positive guy and he tries to stay that way through any kind of adversity and he’s grown a lot since he’s been here because of the adversity.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was upbeat about the depth at receiver earlier in the week, but Mitchell and Scott-Wesley are home run threats that Georgia missed on the outside when they were injured last season.
“It’s going to be tough,” Bennett said, “but my whole career here we’ve always had guys go down, we’ve had injuries at receiver and guys step up and we’re going to have to continue to do that.”
Bennett expects speedster Reggie Davis and Chris Conley to be stretch-the-field threats and said converted cornerback Brendan Langley has shown that type of speed.
“I think we’ll be all right,” Bennett said.
Conley said the injuries are why freshmen Shakenneth Williams and Isaiah McKenzie have to be ready to contribute from day one.
“It has a lot more weight when they look at last year and all the people that dropped out,” Conley said.
Georgia fans hope they don’t have to live through something like that again with Mitchell and Scott-Wesley this time around.
“When you start camp and the way we practice,” Richt said, “we need everybody.”