ATHENS — Georgia hasn’t been able to count on much with its passing game this year, but it’s been able to count on Malcolm Mitchell. Here’s a scary thought for the Bulldogs: What if they can’t on Saturday?
Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves may be the best cornerback in the country – ESPN analyst Todd McShay rates him the third best overall prospect for next year’s draft. So it’s a safe bet Hargreaves will be assigned to guard Mitchell closely.
“It’s an opportunity to compete with somebody who possibly will be a high pick in the draft,” Mitchell said this week.
So a measuring stick?
“No I’m not saying that,” said Mitchell, a fifth-year senior who has already faced plenty of high-quality cornerbacks. In fact he knows how many.
“I’ve played against six first-round draft pick corners,” he said.
A quick check shows that Mitchell is basically right:
- Alabama’s Dee Milliner (2012 SEC championship, 2013 first-round pick)
- Michigan State’s Trae Waynes (2012 Outback Bowl, 2015 first-round pick).
- Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard (2012 Outback Bowl, 2014 first-round pick).
- LSU’s Morris Claiborne (2011 SEC championship, 2012 first-round pick).
- South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore (2011 regular season, 2012 first-round pick).
That’s only five, but Mississippi State’s Darius Slay (who Mitchell saw in 2011) was the fifth pick of the second round in 2013. And Mitchell could also be including Hargreaves himself, as Mitchell faced Florida last year – though Hargreaves might have spent a lot of time on Georgia’s other receivers, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett.
Anyway, throw in the many first-round safeties that Mitchell also lined up against – Florida’s Matt Elam, LSU’s Eric Reid, Alabama’s Ha-Ha Clinton Dix – and certainly facing Hargreaves shouldn’t leave him in awe.
In those five games against the first-rounders and Slay, Mitchell’s production has been very consistent:
- 2012 SEC championship: 4 for 40 yards.
- 2011 SEC championship: 4 for 32
- 2011 vs. Mississippi State: 5 for 60, 1 TD
- 2011 vs. South Carolina: 5 for 52
- 2012 vs. Michigan State: 7 for 51
Those games were a long time ago. But Mitchell, who tore his ACL the first game of the 2013 season and didn’t return until midway through last year, looks to be back to his old form, leading Georgia in all receiving categories.
Speaking of first-round cornerbacks, Mitchell could’ve been one, according to former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. He tried in vain to get Mitchell to play on that side of the ball – and Mitchell did for the first four games of the 2012 season. Mitchell was asked if that could come up again, as in for the 2016 draft.
“Maybe,” Mitchell said, smiling. “We’ll see after this season.”