Role reversal for Mitchell a question mark

To get ready for the start of Georgia’s spring football practice Tuesday, DawgNation will do a position breakdown each day and feature one player to watch at that position. Today we look at the secondary and sophomore Malcolm Mitchell.

ATHENS, Ga. -- One of the breakout performers on Georgia’s offense last season now hopes to make a similar impact on the Bulldogs’ defense.

Malcolm Mitchell emerged as arguably the Bulldogs’ most valuable receiver in his first year on campus, ranking second on the team with 665 yards on 45 catches, despite missing three games with a hamstring injury.

He wanted to become a two-way player for next season -- much as cornerback Brandon Boykin did in helping Georgia’s offense last season -- even before the disciplinary issues that Sanders Commings and Branden Smith encountered in the offseason. Now Mitchell playing a role on defense is less of an experiment than a necessity.

Commings will be out for the first two games and Smith will miss at least one, meaning Georgia’s two most experienced cornerbacks will not be available at the start of the season. That leaves sophomore Damian Swann, redshirt freshman Devin Bowman and Mitchell to hold down the job in the opener against Buffalo and perhaps the SEC opener the following week at Missouri.

The good news for Bulldogs fans is that numerous major programs actually recruited Mitchell -- the No. 45 overall player in the ESPNU 150 in 2011 -- as a defensive back. Similarly, Swann has two-way ability and ranked just behind Mitchell on last year’s ESPNU 150 at No. 76.

So clearly there will be no shortage of athleticism at cornerback when the Bulldogs open spring practice Tuesday. Defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos’ job will be to develop that talent to the point that cornerback will not be a liability when the Bulldogs visit Missouri -- and superstar receiver signee Dorial Green-Beckham -- on Sept. 8.

The key talent to develop will be that of Mitchell, whom coach Mark Richt said will practice full time on defense this spring. If Mitchell makes anywhere near the impact in the secondary that he did at receiver, he will be every bit the two-way weapon that Boykin was a season ago.