Georgia's Malcolm Mitchell turning to defense

photo Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell (26) runs the ball during an NCAA college football game against Auburn Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 in Athens, Ga.

Through two spring practices at Georgia, only two balls during team drills have been thrown in the direction of new cornerback Malcolm Mitchell.

Are Bulldogs quarterbacks too awed by Mitchell's talents?

"I hope!" a laughing Mitchell said following Wednesday's workout. "It's been fun so far. It's gotten competitive in a hurry, because nobody wants to hear somebody else trash-talking the next day."

The switching of the 6-foot-1, 184-pound sophomore from receiver to the secondary is the biggest personnel move in Athens this spring and arguably the biggest in the Southeastern Conference. Mitchell led the Bulldogs last season with 60.5 receiving yards a game but has experience at corner, having been tabbed's top corner prospect nationally while at Valdosta High School.

Mitchell expected to have an advantage this spring by knowing what routes the receivers would be running, but that's where easy street has apparently dead ended.

"It's a lot tougher than I thought it would be," he said. "I may know where the receivers are going, but I still need to learn how to line up in certain coverages. it's difficult having to learn one thing one year and then a different thing another year.

"In many ways I feel like a freshman again."

The need for Mitchell at cornerback came about when senior Sanders Commings was arrested in January on a domestic violence/simple battery charge and was suspended for the first two games. Another senior cornerback, Branden Smith, was arrested last week for possession of marijuana and is facing an early-season suspension as well.

Coach Mark Richt said the plan is for Mitchell to play cornerback in opening games against Buffalo and Missouri before potentially moving back to offense or getting time on both sides of the ball.

"It's fun to watch him go out there and compete," Richt said. "You can tell he's not sure what to do on every single play, but he's playing with a lot of enthusiasm. He certainly can break on the ball and change direction."

Yet to collect an interception or deflection in team drills, Mitchell has discovered the joy of corner blitzes. He said he got to backup quarterback Christian LeMay on a blitz as well freshman tailback Keith Marshall as he was receiving the handoff.

"It's exciting to be able to go in there full speed trying to get around a lineman or a running back," Mitchell said. "It's been fun, but it's definitely been harder than I thought."

Odds and ends

The Bulldogs worked out for more than two hours and will practice again this afternoon before putting on full pads for the first time Saturday morning. ... Ramik Wilson missed his second consecutive practice due to the death of his father last week, but the sophomore inside linebacker is expected back today. ... Cornelius Washington and Ray Drew continued to work at defensive end after playing last year at outside linebacker. ... Georgia and Clemson are scheduled to play in 2013 and '14, but the Atlantic Coast Conference's decision to expand to nine league games could result in that series getting axed.