Malcolm Mitchell will finally get his football career back underway Saturday when the Georgia wide receiver will play for the first time in 13 months against Vanderbilt.
"By Thursday, I think we'll have a really good idea whether it's 'just play ball' or we'll need to be strategic," Georgia coach Mark Richt said, according to dawgs247.com. The Bulldogs also will welcome wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley to the lineup from the ranks of the injured. But Scott-Wesley's wait hasn't been as long as Mitchell's.
Mitchell has the talent to be Bulldogs quarterback Hutson Mason's top target, but he'll first half to shake loose the rust on his game from a year-plus layoff. He missed last year with a knee injury suffered in Georgia's season-opener, and a different knee injury had kept him off the field to this point this season.
In 2012, Mitchell began the season playing cornerback, but transitioned to receiver to become the team's No. 2 receiver for then-quarterback Aaron Murray. He caught 40 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns, second only to Tavarres King, now of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Mitchell is a fourth-year junior, so he could either return to the Bulldogs for a fifth year in 2015, or declare eligibility for the NFL draft. Given the late start to his season, scouting evaluations on Mitchell's play post-ACL tear would be more difficult with fewer games to review. That would especially be true if Mitchell's return begins with a limitation on snaps, as Richt suggested it might.
Either way, the news is good for Mason, who could only benefit from adding a target like Mitchell. As long as Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo continues to try to balance the presence of Todd Gurley's rushing dominance with frequent passing, Mason will need him.