ATHENS, Ga. -- Malcolm Mitchell returns to find Georgia's receiving corps in a better position than the one he left a month ago.
Despite missing the last three games with an injured left hamstring, the speedy freshman wideout remains the Bulldogs' leading receiver with 438 yards. Yet, in his absence, several Georgia receivers have proved that they too are valuable targets for quarterback Aaron Murray.
"I wasn't surprised at all," said Mitchell, speaking to the media for the first time since Oct. 8, when he first injured his hamstring in a 126-yard effort against Tennessee. "I've been working with them all summer. I already knew they were good."
Mitchell reinjured the hamstring in practice the week of the Florida game, delaying his return until this weekend's game against Auburn. He practiced in a limited role Monday but increased his participation Tuesday and Wednesday, and he is expected to take another step forward Thursday.
"I'm not trying to let any anxiety come," Mitchell said. "That's why I want to work pretty hard in practice, work it out so I'll know how this is supposed to feel."
Said Georgia coach Mark Richt: "He practiced a lot. He ran full speed in my mind. He might not have been full speed, but he looked pretty close to full speed, changing direction, jumping and catching balls. I'm convinced he'll be ready to play."
Mitchell was the only Georgia wideout to post a 100-yard game in the Bulldogs' first six games -- in fact, no Georgia wide receiver besides Mitchell had more than 65 receiving yards in any of the first six games -- but several players have produced standout performances in the interim.
Marlon Brown had four catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns and Michael Bennett added seven grabs for 89 yards against Vanderbilt. Bennett and Tavarres King made clutch fourth-down touchdown catches against Florida. True freshman Chris Conley set career highs with five catches for 126 yards last week against New Mexico State.
And now Mitchell returns to join them.
"We just knew we could do this from day one," Bennett said. "If anyone went down or if anyone needed to come in to give someone a blow, there wouldn't be any skip. We all know what to do. [Receivers coach Tony] Ball has coached us very well and we just know how to get the job done."
Andrews an exception
Sports Illustrated ran a recent story that claimed Georgia has the heaviest starting offensive line in college or pro football with a listed average of 329.4 pounds per player.
At 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds, freshman center David Andrews isn't a starter, or the line's average height and weight would have been considerably less. Andrews' listed height would match that of Chris Burnette, making them the shortest of Georgia's starting linemen, but that number might be a bit generous, according to Andrews' teammates.
"The doctor says I'm 6-2, but no one on this team wants to say I'm 6-2," Andrews said with a laugh. "So we'll be in a meeting room or something and be talking about how we have the biggest offensive line, and they tell me I'm bringing down the average. I'll be like, 'I know I'm 6-2,' and they'll say, 'No, you're 6-foot.' But honestly, I'm 6-2."
Either way, Andrews plays the correct position on the line for a player his size. He played offensive tackle as a youngster, but moved to center in middle school and discovered that the position suited him.
"My seventh-grade team needed a center and so I was like, 'Might as well try it. Let's see,' and I just caught on," Andrews said. "Then I knew in high school, if I wanted to play at the next level with my size, I'd have to stay at center, just because of height."
Richt said outside linebacker Jarvis Jones' sore knee continues to improve and that the redshirt sophomore should be fine by kickoff on Saturday.
Jones sustained an MCL strain early in the Bulldogs' win against Florida -- a game where he recorded four sacks -- and played only a minor role last weekend against New Mexico State. He practiced against the scout team on Wednesday, Richt said.
"We limited him to scout work, but he's fine," Richt said. "He's better off on Wednesday this week than he was Wednesday last week."
No kicker news
Richt was not ready to say after Wednesday's practice whether Blair Walsh and Brandon Bogotay would share kicking duties against Auburn.
"We really haven't talked about it," Richt said. "And if I knew 100 percent, I really wouldn't want to tell you now anyway."
Walsh has missed 10 of 23 field goal tries this season, causing Richt to alternate the two players on extra points and kickoffs last weekend against New Mexico State. The Bulldogs did not attempt any field goals in the 63-16 win against the Aggies.
David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.