ATHENS - Malcolm Mitchell's road back to health hit a bump this week, though Georgia's star receiver is still expected to be ready come August.
Mitchell, who missed basically all of last season after tearing his right ACL, sustained a left leg injury on Tuesday and will be withheld from the rest of spring practice.
The redshirt junior is expected to make a full recovery for preseason practice in August, according to UGA head athletic trainer Ron Courson.
"The good news is we think he’ll be ready by the summertime to be working and be 100 percent by the time camp starts," head coach Mark Richt said after Saturday's spring practice. "A lot of times the big question is are that going to happen or not. We don’t think it will cost him the season at all or even any camp for that matter.”
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Mitchell tore his ACL the second series of last year's opener at Clemson, before catching a pass. He was recovering well enough to run on the side during bowl practice in December, and on Tuesday he was participating in drills on a non-contact basis.
Mitchell has battled injuries his entire time at Georgia. As a freshman he missed four games with a hamstring, and as a sophomore he missed one game after spraining his ankle.
“Well I guess he did have a hamstring his first year for a minute. He’s very, I mean we use the term explosive. The guy is just, he can jump, he can change direction so quickly. He can go from zero to 60 faster than most human beings. Because of that sometimes it puts pressure on your muscles and your joints and all that kind of thing. I think that’s part of it. He’s a strong, strong guy. Ron Courson was saying he’s one of the strongest guys we’ve had in the – I forget the name of the machine, where we measure the strength of the quad and that kind of thing. But he’s a super strong thing.”
Gurley and Marshall progressing
On the other hand, tailback Keith Marshall appears to be improving quickly after tearing his ACL last season. The junior-to-be continues to participate in non-contact drills, and does not look too slowed.
Richt was asked if he was surprised at Marshall's progress.
“Well, not really, because I know how he’s been progressing all along," Richt said. "But it’s good to see him do that. And he’s been doing some change of direction things out not in a competitive situation. We don’t really want him to do anything competitive right now. But it’s good to see him moving well. He works hard, and some guys heal faster than others.”
Meanwhile, starting tailback Todd Gurley has not been slowed at all this spring. The debate prior to spring practice was how to handle Gurley, who was banged up last year and missed the better part of four games with a sprained ankle. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo wanted Gurley to push through, and so far that's what's occuring.
“Gurley’s doing everything," Richt said. "And I even said it today to I don’t know a coach that happened to be sitting next to me, it looks like he’s really working himself into some better condition. It looks like he’s just feeling more confident, I guess, would be the way to say it. He’s cutting each direction well. I’m seeing less and less issues that something was wrong somewhere along the way. He looks more like Gurley. He’s not in a tip-top condition like he was starting the season a year ago, yet. But he’s getting there.”
Dantzler could have redshirted 'in hindsight'
Watts Dantzler is trying to earn a spot on the offensive line as he enters his final year at Georgia. But Richt admitted Saturday that perhaps it shouldn't have been his final year.
“We think he can help us. In hindsight it would have been nice if he had redshirted somewhere along the way because he is a fourth-year senior," Richt said. "It would be nice if he had this and another but it didn’t work out that way."
Dantzler appeared in three games as a freshman, six as a junior and 13 last season. But he has yet to be a starter, and has shuttled between tackle and guard.
Richt said Dantzler is getting more work at tackle than guard right now, and is competing for a swingman role, which would essentially mean the third tackle, with the ability to also play guard.
“By knowing guard and tackle just like if you’re like the seventh or eighth linemen in the NFL, you better be able to play more than one position," Richt said. "That adds value, it gives you a better chance to play and he’s able to do both so I think he’ll be good. Right now he’s doing well at tackle.”