ATHENS, Ga. -- In order for Malcolm Mitchell to pull off his quest of playing double duty for Georgia this fall, a major change must occur.
It won’t be so much changing his workout habits. Sure, he’ll work more on quick burst drills and sprints with little time for breaks, but Mitchell’s change will be much more significant to his realm of comfort.
Mitchell must significantly alter his diet if he wants to have the stamina to play both cornerback and wide receiver in the SEC this fall. He’ll have to trash the sweets.
“I always had a problem eating candy,” said Mitchell, who moved to cornerback this spring after catching 45 passes for 665 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman last fall.
Mitchell said that since he was a kid, his diet has mainly consisted of fruit-flavored candy, preferably Starburst jelly beans, and Sprite -- a catastrophic combination of sugar and carbonation.
The 6-foot-1, 184-pounder is used to consuming at least five bags of jelly beans and who knows how much Sprite a week. That’s approximately 1,160 grams of sugar and 6,000 unnecessary calories from jelly beans alone.
“I know that’s going to have to change,” Mitchell said with a laugh.
“I’m going to work for that stamina because I know I want to play both ways.”
Mitchell plans to replace some of that candy with fruits and veggies and will add more water to replace his Sprite intake. He refuses to go cold turkey, but hopes to get down to one bag of candy a week. Maybe.
If Mitchell can get his diet on track, it will make life much easier. He started the spring working primarily at corner, but offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and quarterback Aaron Murray have tried to steal him away as much as they can.
Murray still throws with him and he’ll run the occasional route here and there, but his main focus this spring is to own the cornerback spot. The Bulldogs are dealing with depth issues at corner and the suspensions of two starters -- Sanders Commings and Branden Smith -- for the beginning of the season, so Mitchell’s training has accelerated.
While Mitchell played both receiver and corner at Valdosta High in southern Georgia, he admits it took him some time to get his defensive legs back. The first practice at corner was filled with slipping and sliding and poor technique.
Mitchell only decided to play wide receiver after he saw that A.J. Green was going pro. However, he quickly realized that his heart was still on defense and after talking with his mother just before Georgia’s bowl game last season, he approached coach Mark Richt about the idea of playing some defense in 2012.
“I was never going to be satisfied with myself if I let the opportunity pass,” Mitchell said.
One thing he’ll have to do is brush up on his two-way player history. Mitchell admits he didn’t grow up watching football and has never seen film of past two-way stars, such as Deion Sanders or Georgia great Champ Bailey.
Mitchell got into football later in his younger life, after seeing all the attention his brother received from playing. Jealous of that attention, Mitchell suited up and looked to steal the limelight.
Mitchell is looking to steal it once again and is taking full advantage of his time on defense. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has been more than impressed with Mitchell, especially his increased knowledge of the defense.
Grantham said Mitchell can play inside and outside, has premier speed, showcases excellent ball skills and has the instincts to excel at corner.
“He’s a dynamic corner,” Grantham said. “He’s a guy that has the total skill set to be a dominant corner at this level and the next.
“He’s an NFL corner.”
Grantham said that after only a few spring practices, Mitchell is ahead of where past Georgia corners were at the same point.
Murray isn’t thrilled with facing Mitchell in practice and has already been the victim of a few “freakish” plays by the youngster.
“He’s a special athlete,” Murray said.
“He could easily be one of our best corners if he wanted to do that full time and one of our best receivers if he wanted to do that full time. It’s great to see how spectacular of an athlete he really is.”
Richt sees it too. More importantly, he sees a player who doesn’t have to worry about his knowledge of the game. Unlike Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith, who both pulled a little double duty for the Dawgs, Mitchell understands the entire offense. Plugging him in with few offensive reps won’t be an issue from a mental standpoint; so getting him more time on defense shouldn’t drastically hinder his offensive ability.
But can he hold up physically?
“He’s very capable of playing both ways,” Richt said.
“The question isn’t going to be if he knows enough of the system, it’s going to be his stamina and how much is too much.”
The new diet should help.
Mitchell understands that less sugar and more water is just the start. He’s expecting practices and film sessions to intensify and his performances will be scrutinized more.
But it’s worth it. Mitchell wants it and he wants to prove himself because he’s honored to be a member of Georgia’s defense.
“This defense is the best defense I’ve been a part of or even played against,” he said. “Me being over there to help that makes me feel like a better player. To feel like I can help something that’s already great makes me feel better than anything I did last year because how good the players are.
“Just to be a part of it and help out means a lot to me.”