A loss to Clemson wasn’t the only hit the Georgia football program took Saturday. Losing wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell for the season to an ACL injury made the day heartbreaking.
Mitchell suffered the knee injury while celebrating a touchdown in the first quarter with tailback Todd Gurley. Mitchell has tallied 1,237 receiving yards in just two seasons at Georgia, and his presence will be tough to replace.
“We’ve got other guys that can go deep and make plays for us,” said head coach Mark Richt on a conference call with the media on Sunday. “But Malcolm was certainly a guy who could do that well. He had great speed and quickness and would snatch the ball in traffic.”
With Georgia now lacking a playmaker at receiver, the door is open for multiple individuals to rise to the challenge.
Michael Bennett was set to be Aaron Murray’s No. 2 target behind Mitchell. Now with Mitchell out, Bennett is expected to step up and assume the No. 1 spot along with taking on a much bigger leadership role. With eight starts, now is the time for Bennett to use his experience to lead Georgia’s receiving corps.
Chris Conley has been getting better each season, with an increase in receiving yards and touchdowns from 2011 to 2012. With Mitchell out as a primetime target, it’s time for Conley to showcase his talent. Although Conley only had three receptions against Clemson, assuming a No. 2 spot alongside Bennett should increase his targets and help him garner more playmaking time in Mitchell’s absence.
Junior college transfer Jonathon Rumph enrolled early at Georgia and made an immediate impact at G-Day, as he caught four passes for 98 yards in the spring game. He missed the Clemson game with a hamstring injury, but Richt said in Tuesday afternoon’s press conference “Rumph will be back and he’s ready to go.”
Justin Scott-Wesley could also become Murray’s go-to guy in Mitchell’s absence. Scott-Wesley caught four passes last Saturday against Clemson, and his speed may allow him to play a much larger role moving forward.
Senior Rantavious Wooten is one of the most experienced receivers on Georgia’s roster, and now not only has the chance to step up, but to live up to his potential as well. Richt said at the press conference Tuesday he expects “Wooten to be in the mix,” in Malcolm’s absence.
Losing Mitchell after a loss like Saturday’s is similar to throwing salt on an open wound. However, Georgia is loaded with potential to take Mitchell’s place. With a stacked depth chart, the door is open to whoever wants to walk in.