Via the Athens Banner-Herald, the Bulldogs announced Friday that sophomore cornerback Malcolm Mitchell had sprained an ankle in Thursday's "light practice" and would not be available during the Dawgs' season opener Saturday against Buffalo.
The bigger concern for Georgia fans will be Mitchell's status for the trip to Columbia, now just eight days away.
"No projections at this point on his availability for next week's game," senior associate athletic director Claude Felton told the Banner-Herald via email.
Mitchell's place in the starting lineup will likely be occupied by sophomore corner Damian Swann, who made one start and appeared in 11 games in 2011, mostly as a reserve.
The Bulldogs' concerns over their defensive backfield are the reason Mitchell isn't described as a "wide receiver" in the first place, with returning starting corner Sanders Commings suspended for the game and potential All-American safety Bacarri Rambo very likely -- though not certainly -- also suspended for the SEC opener as well. Rambo won't be replaced by former safety-turned-linebacker Alec Ogletree, either; he's also likely suspended.
The good news for Georgia is that Mark Richt lifted a suspension for the Bulldogs' other returning starting corner, Branden Smith, who'd been arrested on marijuana charges in March.
Despite that decision having been made near the start of fall camp, Richt made no move to return Mitchell to wide reciver full-time, where as a true freshman in 2011 he'd finished a narrow second on the team in both receptions (45) and receiving yards (665). Richt said at SEC Media Days that he expected Mitchell to finish the season having split his snaps "50-50" between offense and defense. Mitchell also returns kicks.
"By time [the] season's over, we will have seen a lot of Malcolm playing offense," Richt said. "Early on, I don't know how much."
That Richt could be that noncommital about Mitchell's role on offense speaks to the depth of his impact on defense, where coaches and teammates alike have talked about his practice performance at corner -- both in spring and fall camps -- as that of a future star.
As Matt Hinton wrote for Eye on CFB in July, the demands of playing both ways full-time mean that Mitchell almost certainly won't be able to maintain his role as both go-to wide receiver and potential lockdown corner--meaning that if Richt wanted him to start the season as the latter, it's a safe bet he had an awfully good reason for it. Even with Mitchell having never played a down at corner, his possible absence against the Tigers could have serious repercussions.