ATHENS – Malcolm Mitchell won’t be mentioned among the nation’s top receivers this season. He probably won’t be first-team All-SEC, and may not even make second team.
And none of that is his fault.
There have been many well-documented problems with Georgia’s offense. The one thing that has gone right, arguably perfect, is Mitchell.
“He’s been able to take his game to another level this year,” Georgia receivers coach Bryan McClendon said.
It’s a shame for Mitchell, the fifth-year senior, that Georgia’s passing offense has been such a struggle, or else his numbers and notoriety would be higher. They’re still good: He’s two catches away and 48 receiving yards away from matching his previous career highs (45 catches and 665 yards, both set as a freshman.) He’s tied his career-high of four touchdowns, from his freshman and sophomore seasons. He’s led Georgia in receiving yards in all nine games.
But Mitchell is only ninth in the SEC in catches and sixth in receiving yards.
Do you ever wonder, Mitchell was asked this week, what might’ve been if he were in a passing offense that was clicking all year?
“My goal at the beginning of the season was to maximize every opportunity that I had,” Mitchell said. “My goal was not to look at opportunities that weren’t coming my way, if that makes sense. So I wasn’t too focused on the stats to say that if the ball was in the air and I had opportunities to make the play. My goal was not to leave anything out there like that. So for opportunities that didn’t arise, I just don’t pay attention to (that).”
Considering where he’s been, it’s very believable that Mitchell isn’t actually frustrated.
Last year he returned midway through the season after re-injurying the same knee that he had surgery on, causing him to miss basically all of the 2013 season. And when Mitchell played last year there were only flickering signs of the dynamic receiver that Georgia had in 2011 and 2012.
Now that big question – can he be the old Malcolm Mitchell – seem long ago. And the receiver himself said he knew this past August, during preseason camp, that he was back to his old form.
“Just the acrobatic catches I was able to make, that I wasn’t even doing before,” he said. “That’s when I knew I was feeling good.”
Mitchell is also on track to – this is where everybody can knock on wood – play in every game, something he’s never done at Georgia. He missed three games as a freshman with a hamstring injury, and one as a sophomore with an ankle injury.
It’s hard to come up with any mistakes by Mitchell this season. McClendon, asked if there was a drop at some point, answered “probably in the Bama game when it was all wet and nasty.” But he couldn’t remember an obvious one. Head coach Mark Richt said this week that Mitchell has been the team’s best blocking receiver.
Maybe he ran a wrong route at some point?
“I’m not perfect, so there are some mistakes that I’ve made,” Mitchell said, adding with a smile: “I’m glad you didn’t notice it.”
If personal accolades for this season don’t come, Mitchell is at least leaving his mark on Georgia’s record book: He is fifth on Georgia’s career catch list, with 159, and seventh on the receiving list with 2,102 yards. There are four games (including a bowl, and presuming he stays healthy) to move up further.
Most of the time this year the praise for Mitchell has been about off-field endeavors. He wrote a children’s book in the offseason, has launched a reading initiative, and regularly visits elementary schools to preach the importance of books. Much like Chris Conley, the former Georgia receiver who had numerous off-field endeavors, that can sometimes mask how good he is on the field.
“He’s been through a lot, especially with his knee,” said tight end Jay Rome, a fellow fifth-year senior and Valdosta native. “So I’m just glad to see him being Malcolm again.”