published Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Georgia Bulldogs not at full strength again at receiver

Georgia football coach Mark Richt watches his players during practice Friday in Athens, Ga.
Georgia football coach Mark Richt watches his players during practice Friday in Athens, Ga.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Ga. — The start of another preseason football camp is always exciting at the University of Georgia.

News of another injury to receiver Malcolm Mitchell is not.

Before the Bulldogs conducted Friday's two-hour practice in unseasonably cool conditions, the athletic department announced that Mitchell injured his right knee while running routes earlier this week with teammates. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder from Valdosta underwent an arthroscopic procedure Thursday to address a cartilage issue, and the school's director of sports medicine, Ron Courson, expects a full recovery for Mitchell but did not set a timetable for his return.

Coach Mark Richt, whose No. 12 Bulldogs open against No. 16 Clemson and No. 9 South Carolina, wasn't into guessing, either.

"As you start camp and the way we practice, we need everybody, and we're down one guy before it even starts," Richt said. "You get your plans made, and if somebody gets an injury, whether it's a one-day injury or something that's a little longer, then you just have to adapt and improvise. It's kind of a pain in the rear, but that's part of football."

Mitchell has been a deep threat for the Bulldogs since bursting into the Southeastern Conference with 45 receptions for 665 yards as a heralded freshman in 2011. His totals dipped to 40 catches for 572 yards in 2012, but he spent nearly the first third of that season playing cornerback before moving back to offense.

He missed three games as a freshman due to a hamstring pull and sat out his sophomore opener with a knee injury, and he had last season scratched by a torn right ACL in the opener at Clemson. Mitchell got that injury by landing awkwardly after celebrating a 75-yard touchdown run by Todd Gurley.

"You can't explain four injuries," Bulldogs quarterback Hutson Mason said. "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."

When Mitchell got hurt early last season, Justin Scott-Wesley took over as the team's deep threat. Scott-Wesley had an 85-yard scoring reception against South Carolina and had the winning touchdown from 25 yards out against LSU, but his season was cut short by a torn ACL at Tennessee.

A torn ACL that has not recovered, according to Richt.

"I'm not sure when he'll be able to play a game of football for us," Richt said. "We think it will be this season."

Playing two ranked teams without two proven vertical talents is not ideal for the Bulldogs, who still have plenty of depth at the position. Michael Bennett and Chris Conley are productive seniors, but the best deep option for the time being is sophomore Reggie Davis.

Davis had a 98-yard touchdown reception last year against North Texas, but his 134-yard performance against the Mean Green comprised more than half of his season output.

"We all have the capability to go deep," Bennett said, "but obviously Reggie Davis is one of the fastest guys on the team. Conley can really get going, too, on some of those deep post routes, and [former cornerback Brendan] Langley is fast, so I think we'll be all right.

"It's going to be tough, but in my whole career here, we've always had guys go down. We've always had injuries at receiver, and guys have stepped up. We're going to have to continue to do that."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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