ATHENS, Ga. -- Sophomore Malcolm Mitchell's absence is not likely to affect the outcome of Georgia’s game against Buffalo on Saturday -- after all, Mitchell’s Bulldogs are favored by between 37 and 38 points depending on which bookmaker you prefer -- but Georgia fans no doubt hope his sprained left ankle heals quickly.
The Bulldogs are already without suspended senior cornerback Sanders Commings, who started all 14 games last season, for the Buffalo and Missouri games. The purpose of Mitchell’s springtime shift to cornerback was in part to offset Commings’ absence and to add extra depth in the secondary.
If he’s unavailable for next week’s visit to Missouri -- Georgia associate athletic director Claude Felton said “no projections [have been made] at this point on his availability” for the visit to Mizzou -- the Bulldogs’ secondary will be on even shakier ground.
In the short term, Georgia will be fine at cornerback. Sophomore Damian Swann had a solid preseason and could easily slide into a starting role alongside senior Branden Smith. Redshirt freshman Devin Bowman and true freshman Sheldon Dawson can probably expect to play even more than they already would have against the Bulls on Saturday.
But Buffalo is unlikely to pose much of a threat through the air, coming off a 2011 season where it ranked 76th in the nation in passing offense with 210 yards per game. The greater concern would unquestionably come next week against a Missouri team that was 12th nationally in total offense (476 ypg), ninth in rushing offense (244 ypg) and 64th in passing offense (232 ypg) last season.
Georgia’s passing game will take a smaller hit without Mitchell, as he was still expected to contribute on offense in a limited role early in the season. He was an SEC All-Freshman receiver with 665 yards last season and will split time between offense and defense once Commings returns to the lineup.
But for now, Mitchell will watch from the sideline and Georgia fans are holding their collective breath that he suffered only a one-week ailment.