In case there were any questions, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is ready to remove all doubt.
Malcolm Mitchell will take the field and see plenty of playing time at cornerback in Georgia's season opener against Buffalo on Saturday.
"He's a good player, so Malcolm's a guy that is gonna be in there, and he's gonna play," Grantham said. "I think all those guys — Malcolm, Damian [Swann] and [Branden] Smith — all three have done really good, and have worked hard to improve their crafts, so they're all gonna play."
Another player the Georgia defensive coordinator said will likely get reps is redshirt freshman Devin Bowman. Grantham noted Bowman has continued to improve since the conclusion of last season and has put himself in a position to play early and often in 2012.
"We're ready to play him if needed," Grantham said. "He's a guy that plays the outside stuff for us and will continue to do that. He gets reps in practice ... so if the situation happens, he'll be ready to perform. He's a guy that we're gonna look on to provide some depth for us at that position."
A pair of freshman have also worked to add depth in the secondary.
Grantham said Josh Harvey-Clemons can play at either nickelback or safety, while Sheldon Dawson is also coming along nicely.
"He's a guy that I look forward to seeing play," Grantham said of Harvey-Clemons. "He's worked hard since he's been here. He has a chance to be a really good player, [so] he's just got to go play and continue to improve his craft. He's young, so I'm sure he's gonna be excited and ready to go."
The only thing Dawson needs is more reps, since he played much of his high school career at running back. However, Grantham said he has all the attributes a corner needs. Now he just has to harness them.
"He's got really good ball skills, he's got really good quickness [and] he's a tough guy," Grantham said. "And he's a guy that we're gonna continue to work and develop to give us some depth if needed down the road."
Bulldogs not looking past Bulls
With their tilt against Buffalo drawing ever closer, Georgia's players and coaches have broken down hours of film. And the Bulldogs have been impressed with what they've seen.
"I was looking at their offense and one of the things that I saw from their first to their second year was that they were really adding their yards per game and doing much better in points per game," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. "Their turnover ratio has improved dramatically from year one to year two and now they’re going into year three with a lot of veteran players."
Running back Branden Oliver is the player that makes the Bulls' offense go. The junior from Miami set a single-season school record for rushing yards (1,395) last year, which helped earn a selection to the Mid-American Conference's first-team. He's also been named to the Doak Walker watch list entering this season. Needless to say, he has Grantham's full attention.
"I think he's a really good downhill guy. He's sometimes hard to find," Grantham said of the 5-foot-8 Oliver. "They've got some veteran offensive linemen up there, so they do a good job of working together and creating seams for him. And he's got a downhill burst. He's got some quickness, he can make the first guy miss. So we gotta understand where he's at."
Wide receiver Rantavious Wooten said the Bulls' team speed is something that has caught his eye. But he wasn't sure what to expect from Buffalo's defense since it has welcomed a new coordinator in the well-traveled Lou Tepper.
Tepper coached Illinois from 1991-96 and was LSU's defensive coordinator under Gerry DiNardo for three seasons (1997-99).
"We've really had to dig up some things to find out what they're going to be doing," Wooten said. "As far as their players go, they've got some good guys. They play hard, so you can tell they're not going to lay down. We've got to know they're not going to be a cupcake, so we need to be clicking on all cylinders."
Richt acknowledged he would love to have Kolton Houston available to play. But his NCAA status is as murky as ever. The Bulldogs won't have Hunter Long, either, who is still out with a broken left foot. That in mind, the head coach said the offensive line will just have to make due with who's healthy enough to take snaps.
"Hunter was making some strides at center and guard before he broke his foot," Richt said. "I don’t know if we would’ve had a situation with two full lines and the one unit leaves and the two unit comes in. There’s been only a couple of seasons that I can remember that I’ve been coaching that we had that type of a line. Mostly it’s one, two or three guys who can go in there and play."
One player on the cusp of action is junior college transfer Mark Beard. If Kenarious Gates went down, Richt said Beard would be the most likely candidate to step in at left tackle, but wouldn't say it was "100 percent."
"But the more he practices there and the more comfortable he gets there, the better chance he’ll have," Richt said. "We did have Austin [Long] there, but then we decided to move Austin inside, so I don’t know if he would go in first or if Mark would. Austin was at left tackle at the beginning, but now he’s moving around a little bit. We’ll see if it’s Mark or not."
After being added to the injury report on Monday, both Cornelius Washington (cervical strain) and Kwame Geathers (left shoulder contusion) were limited to no contact in practice for the second consecutive day. Tight end Jay Rome was also limited again due to a hamstring strain, though he was able to take part in contact drills. Four other Bulldogs were held out of practice, including wide receiver Taylor Bradberry (thumb sprain), punter Cody Johnson (groin strain), offensive guard Hunter Long (left foot fracture) and tight end Cole Trolinger (concussion).