Richt predicts spring position experiments

ATHENS, Ga. -- Could Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell contribute at cornerback in the fall? Will outside linebacker Ray Drew play some defensive end? And could tailback Richard Samuel chip in at fullback?

These are typical offseason questions on the minds of many Bulldogs fans as the team moves toward spring practice.

And according to coach Mark Richt, the answers are yes, yes and yes.

Richt spoke with reporters Thursday afternoon in a pre-spring teleconference and stressed that the team will employ an “all hands on deck” mentality in 2012.

“We have got to make sure that we take the entire talent base of our football team and get the best players out there in whatever situations that we need them in,” Richt said.

“If that means a guy playing both ways or playing two positions on defense or whatever it might be -- or if that means the entire starting lineup on offense and defense playing special teams, I don’t care what it is -- whatever we’ve got to do to get the best players on the field, we’ve got to do that and take advantage of everybody’s abilities.”

That means the coaching staff plans to test Mitchell as a two-way player in the spring to figure out whether he can help at cornerback -- particularly because the Bulldogs will be without senior starter Sanders Commings, who will be suspended for the first two games.

Mitchell was a Freshman All-SEC receiver last year with 45 catches for 665 yards, but he missed three games with a hamstring injury. The speedster was a heavily recruited cornerback out of high school, although Georgia recruited him to play wideout because of his big-play potential.

“I know people have been talking about Malcolm Mitchell and could he end up playing both ways,” Richt said. “Quite frankly, we’re going to experiment with that a little bit and see how much he can handle learning some cornerback. I think that’s something.”

Richt and Samuel both initially balked at the notion of his contributing at fullback, but Richt indicated Thursday “there’s a chance of that, too."

Regarding Drew, Richt said he can play multiple roles depending on the situation -- a versatility that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has emphasized since arriving on campus in 2010.

Richt expects that philosophy to continue -- and apparently, to spread.

“The bottom line is we’re going to play everybody on any given game or any given personnel grouping, if that makes sense,” Richt said. “Certain personnel groupings, a guy might do this and another grouping, he might be doing something else, just depending on what we’re trying to defend. The versatility of the defense allows that. So yeah, we’ve kind of been doing that all along.”