UGA’s Bobo on Mitchell: ‘Just let me have him for 10 plays’

Georgia junior Malcolm Mitchell has been limited in practice after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on July 31.

Credit: Jason Getz / AJC File

Credit: Jason Getz / AJC File

Georgia junior Malcolm Mitchell has been limited in practice after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on July 31.

Considering he walked out on Woodruff Practice Fields in shorts and a t-shirt Tuesday afternoon and watched the receivers practice for about five minutes before turning around and walking back inside Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, it didn’t look much like Malcolm Mitchell is close to playing again for Georgia. But the Bulldogs insist he is. Could be as early as next week, they say.

For offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, that day can’t get here soon enough. In fact, he joked with UGA trainers and doctors that he doesn’t even need Mitchell for a whole game. Heck, he’ll even use just as a decoy.

“I told them I just need him for 10 plays,” Bobo said Tuesday evening after the Bulldogs’ practice for Tennessee. “He doesn’t have to play the whole game. … I’d love to have him out there for a couple of plays. I love to dress him out and line him up out there and see if they’d double him or not.”

Both Bobo and head coach Mark Richt insist that Mitchell is closer than he looks. The junior flanker had every intention of playing this entire season. But after a long, deliberate rehabilitation from the ACL reconstruction he underwent last fall, Mitchell re-injured his right knee four days before the Bulldogs were to report to preseason camp.

This time it was just a cartilage tear, and Mitchell underwent arthroscopic surgery on July 31. At the time it was expected to be a short recovery. Instead it will be eight weeks as of Thursday.

“We were hopeful it would be sooner, but you’ve just got to go at the pace he can go,” Richt said. “He ran (Monday). He was changing directions and said he felt good. But there is a big difference in zigging and zagging out there by yourself and running a route and being guarded by somebody with live tacklers all around you. So it’s going to take a bit.”

Mitchell, a junior from Valdosta, has been incredibly productive when he’s been on the field. He 1,237 yards and eight touchdowns receiving despite playing in only 25 of a possible 41 games his first three seasons. Taking away the games he played cornerback his sophomore year, that’s a respectable 62 yards a game as a receiver.

But with Mitchell it’s as much about the attention he gets from opposing secondaries as it is his actual production. His ability commands double teams if not just another defensive backs eyes. That’s the element Georgia’s offense is currently missing.

By all accounts, Mitchell’s knee is again structurally sound. Other than some occasional post-activity swelling, he’s able to run without pain. So the Bulldogs are being extremely cautious before turning him loose on defenses again.

“You know, he’s in every meeting right now,” Bobo said. “We just want to be careful that we don’t have any setbacks and when he’s ready to go. The kid’s been through so much. We don’t want to rush him. It’s not fair to him.”

Said Richt: “My guess is even the very first game he comes back it may be tougher to say he’s a 60-minute guy. You may have to pick your shots with him. I don’t know if he’ll have the stamina to play hard every down for every game.”

That’s fine with Bobo. A few plays is all he needs.