Q&A: Mitchell 'Thankful for Opportunity'

ATHENS – Attrition at cornerback wasn't the cause for Malcolm Mitchell's impending flirtation with defense this spring.

Mitchell approached coach Mark Richt about playing both ways weeks before Chris Sanders and Nick Marshall were dismissed from the team in January. While it's clear he'll remain a prominent figure on offense, exactly what role and how much Mitchell will be used on defense will be decided in the coming months.

Mitchell met with reporters Thursday to discuss playing defense, Champ Bailey and racing Keith Marshall in the 40-yard dash.

What have the coaches been telling you about what their plans are for you?

MM: "I've been working on defense a little bit, trying to figure out if that does happen what role I'll play. I've been talking to coach (Todd) Grantham. We'll just have to wait and see the final decision that coach Richt makes."

Do you think this will be resolved after spring practice?

"Yes, I think during spring practice they're going to let me do it, let me try it maybe. I really don't know. Depending on how that goes that will lead into what I do for the summer to prepare for the season."

Do you think you'll still be playing offense no matter what?

"Oh yes, I'll definitely be over there (on offense) still playing no matter what."

Is it possible that you could be what Champ Bailey was – full time offense and defense…

"I have no idea. Honestly I just left it to (the coaches) hands. That's a decision they're going to have to make. How it would work out, I don't know. I just wanted the opportunity so coach Richt said he would figure out a way if it's necessary."

Is this something you're reluctant about or are you excited?

"Oh yes. I'm really excited. It's something that I want to do. It's not just something that popped up."

Did you approach the coaches about this or did they approach you?

"I actually approached them. Right after we came back from the Michigan State game… I came to coach Richt's office and I talked to him. Then he just said it wouldn't be a bad idea. But with the incident that we had here when we lost a couple corners (Chris Sanders and Nick Marshall, that just made it, like, more to think about."

When Champ Bailey was here he averaged about 100 snaps a game…

"I've heard."

Physically, could you see yourself playing that many snaps?

"I will put in the work to make sure I will be able to physically withstand it all. So if I get the opportunity I would definitely take advantage of it."

When you first heard Champ played as many as 100 plays a game, what were your thoughts?

"I want 101. Of course no one could ever be like Champ Bailey. He was a great player here, but I'd like the opportunity to do some of the things he did here."

During your recruitment were schools talking to you more about playing corner or receiver?

"It depends what school we're talking about. A lot of schools wanted me to play DB. Georgia gave me the option of both. They really let me decide. When it came down to it I thought I'd be satisfied with catching touchdowns, but the more I played the game the more I wanted to do both. If I was full-time defense going to any school I would want to play offense, and now I'm here playing offense and I want to play defense. Really just to satisfy that hunger, I'll play both."

If you were a coach looking at the situation, what would be the best thing to do?

"All you can do is just put me out there and see. You're talking about cornerback depth – depth is fine but you still have to have people out there that's going to perform and withstand the area they're supposed to do. Not saying the ones that are there won't do, but you just have to see. As far as being a top receiver, I feel like we have a lot of great receivers. I figure of course if I play defense some of my (offensive) reps will be taken. I feel like we've got other receivers that can back it up just as well as I could."

Have you gotten with coach Grantham or (secondary coach Scott) Lakatos about the defensive playbook?

"Oh yeah, I've been working out with DBs for a couple weeks just trying to get it back down. I haven't played it seriously in about a year. … I'm looking for every – everything I could possibly do I want to do. Blitz, I'll do it all if they let me."

What kind of advantage does playing receiver give you at corner?

"I think it's a big advantage because when a receiver lines up I will know where they're going. I won't know what route they'll be running – off the line and the stem or the steps they take coming off the line all depends on what route they run. I think it's an advantage that I can use, but only if I can get the full defensive concept down."

Is there any concern about trying to do too much?

"Going to coach Richt's office, before I went there, I always had this thought that I don't want to mess up something that's good that I can even make it better. If I focus on receiver this year maybe I can get a lot better at that and then the next year after that I'd be a lot better than that. Then I just sat back and thought about the opportunity and the ability that God gave me – there's no better way to figure out what's going to happen than to try. I'm not scared of the decision I made to go talk to (coach Richt) about it. It's something that I feel strongly about and something I really want to do. I feel like if I put in enough time I can do it."

Have you challenged Keith Marshall to a rematch yet (Marshall beat Mitchell two out of three times in the 40-yard dash earlier this year)?

"No no no, I'm going to let him soak in his glory right now (laughing). He's working hard. He's a good player, but it won't happen again. He can run, I will give him that. We're trying to get up – me and (Branden) Smith talked about, we're trying to get up who all is considered fast on the team to just line up and run the 40 and see what happens. Whoever think they can run can come on out there."

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