Mitchell's loss tough blow to UGA

September, 1, 2013
9/01/13
8:01
PM ET
With another top-10 opponent on deck, Georgia will be down a weapon after getting bad news on Sunday.

An MRI confirmed that receiver Malcolm Mitchell injured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the first quarter of the Bulldogs' 38-35 loss to Clemson on Saturday.

The junior from Valdosta, Ga., was the team's leading returning receiver from last season, catching 40 passes for 572 yards. Mitchell, who suffered the injury while celebrating with running back Todd Gurley after Gurley's 75-yard first-quarter touchdown run, is out for the remainder of the season.

[+] EnlargeChris Conley
AP Photo/ Richard ShiroWith Malcolm Mitchell gone for the season, it's up to receiver such as Chris Conley to step up for Georgia.
It's a big blow for the Bulldogs, as Mitchell is one of the better big-play receivers in the conference. This means the Bulldogs need other receivers to emerge, with a couple showing signs of that potential last night. Sophomore Justin Scott-Wesley produced four catches for 55 yards in place of Mitchell and junior Chris Conley added three receptions for a team-high 67 yards.

Junior Michael Bennett, who missed the final nine games of last season with an ACL injury, was on his way to a strong 2012 season before it was cut short by injury. He had a team-high five catches for 60 yards in the loss to Clemson and will also be a key option as the Bulldogs attempt to adjust in Mitchell's absence.

The timing is tough because Georgia must host No. 6 South Carolina on Saturday. The Bulldogs dealt with similar circumstances a year ago, when Mitchell was injured the week before they played the Gamecocks, who proceeded to blast Georgia 35-7.

Really, you can't attribute this to anything but simple bad luck. Mitchell went airborne to do a chest bump with Gurley, something you see dozens -- if not hundreds -- of players across the country in college football do every week when they score a touchdown or force a turnover. You even see players do it in practices at different schools. He landed awkwardly, and it's a simply unfortunate result.

Georgia will miss Mitchell's presence, but it does have solid depth at receiver and players capable of helping pick up the slack. In addition to Bennett, Conley and Scott-Wesley, look for others such as Rantavious Wooten, Rhett McGowan and perhaps junior college transfer Jonathon Rumph -- who missed the Clemson game with a hamstring injury but is expected back soon -- to help in that capacity. Rumph was the No. 1 receiver in the 2013 ESPN JC 100 rankings.

Should Mitchell be awarded a medical redshirt (he does have a redshirt year available anyways), he could return next season with his final two seasons of eligibility intact. But for now, the Bulldogs will have to come up with a plan for the Gamecocks next week and for the season moving forward.

Sam Khan | email

Texas A&M/SEC reporter

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