Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

November 8, 2012

Injuries lead to more playing time for Georgia’s Mitchell, Rome

ATHENS — For the second time this season, a key starting receiver for the University of Georgia football team has fallen victim to a season-ending injury.

In both instances, two former Valdosta Wildcats — Malcolm Mitchell and Jay Rome — have helped fill the voids, and may continue to provide sparks to the Bulldogs’ passing attack.

As of the weekly UGA press conference on Tuesday, Mitchell has officially taken over the No. 1 slot at split end, filling the void of Marlon Brown, who went down with a season-ending ACL injury. Brown had taken over for fellow senior Michael Bennett, who went down for the season with an injury versus Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Rome has seen his role and playing time increase. Rome caught three passes for 27 yards in UGA’s 37-10 victory over Ole Miss last Saturday. Bulldog starting tight end Arthur Lynch added a 31-yard reception against the Rebels.

The combined loss of Bennett and Brown may prove tall shoes to fill, according to Georgia head coach Mark Richt as his 8-1 Bulldogs prepare for a road trip against Southeastern Conference rival Auburn, a victory that would clinch the SEC’s Eastern Division title.

“Both Marlon and Michael brought a physical presence that will not be easy to replace, not to mention their leadership,” Richt said. “We still have that with T.K. (leading receiver and starting flanker Tavarres King).”

Mitchell will be part of a “rotation” of receiving threats that includes flankers Rantavious Wooten and Chris Conley and fellow split end Rhett McGowan.

“Malcolm has proved to be quite a playmaker,” Richt said. “Wooten is very quick and when called upon has done a good job. Rhett has also done all that we have asked of him.”

With a host of targets for Bulldogs starting quarterback Aaron Murray — whose 21 touchdown passes have gone to seven different receivers — UGA has plenty of offensive options.

“We have a good stable of receivers,” Rome said after practice on Tuesday. “So many weapons to choose from.”

In his expanded role this season, Rome has yet to record his first touchdown, but has caught five Murray strikes for 63 yards.

Lynch has led the tight end slot with 211 yards on nine catches, including one touchdown.

“Our passing game has been opening up. We have been ready for this all season,” Rome said. “Each game I have become more comfortable with blocking and catching. I have always prepared to do both well.”

Richt agreed that Rome continues to rise toward expected levels for a “Georgia tight end.”

“Jay Rome has done well at tight end for us,” Richt said at the press conference this week. “He’s a special player and (he’s) been playing better. (He is also) becoming a much better blocker.”

Murray echoed Richt’s breakdown of the present passing attack for the Bulldogs.

“It’s tough to lose those two guys (Bennett and Brown),” Murray said. “They are two physical guys that can play multiple positions.”

Like his head coach indicated, solid options have grown into Murray’s stable through the air on offense.

“Malcolm has really come on strong,” Murray said. “We also have Arthur and Jay, along with T.K. and Wooten. We’ll just leave it up to God. He has a plan for everything.”

In the Ole Miss rout, Murray connected on touchdown strikes to four different Bulldogs.

Brown started the aerial circus with a 66-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter (at the 10:30 mark), followed by a 40-yarder to King with just 30 seconds left in the half.

Murray continued the air strike with a 42-yard TD to Mitchell after only 3:08 elapsed in the third quarter, and Wooten sealed the lopsided victory over Ole Miss with a 23-yard touchdown reception.

——

Also returning to the spotlight this week will be senior linebacker Michael Gilliard, who is projected to split starting duties at one of the inside linebacker slots with sophomore Amarlo Herrera.

Saturday’s showdown at Auburn (2-7, 0-6 SEC) will mark Gilliard’s seventh start this season for the Bulldogs.

Gilliard is fifth in tackles on the Bulldogs’ defense with 42 this season, while Herrera is tied for the team lead with 61 tackles.

Meanwhile, Mitchell registered his second touchdown of the season against Ole Miss, and moved into third place on the team in receptions with 26 catches for 358 yards.

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