Aug. 16, 2016
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
At 5-10, 208 pounds, Mikell Lands-Davis is the only Georgia Tech receiver under six feet, spotting the other nine members of the receiving corps at least two inches, seven of them as many as four.
But Lands-Davis isn’t looking up to anyone. In fact, he’s planning on having opposing defensive backs looking up to him — from the ground.
“I feel really confident in blocking,” said the sophomore from Douglasville, Ga. (Alexander High School). “I’ve been more physical. That’s how I’ve been playing. I think I bring the physical element to wide receiver.”
Lands-Davis arrived in Atlanta last season expecting to show that physicality at B-back but, by necessity, found himself moving to A-back, then gaining a spot in the starting lineup, altering plans to redshirt him.
He made his first start Oct. 3 against North Carolina, gaining 12 yards on three carries, and making two catches for 24 yards, one of those a 19-yard TD connection with Justin Thomas. He would start two more games, playing in seven overall, rushing 18 times for 40 yards, with a long of 11, catching seven passes for 69 yards, with a 26-yard long and the touchdown and returning one kickoff for a yard.
Any thoughts of moving up on the depth chart at A-back were quashed over the summer by head coach Paul Johnson, who told him of the projected move to wide receiver.
Lands-Davis has gotten used to changing plans and actually felt relief in knowing he stood and where he was playing.
“During the summer when we were running routs, Coach Johnson said, `Hey, you don’t need to worry about doing anything else at a different position. We’re going to make you a wide receiver,'” Lands-Davis recalled. “After he said that I just focused on wide receiver.
“I’m doing what’s best for the team,” he added.
Maybe not the most electrifyingly endorsement in response to a change of position, but Lands-Davis’ effort in the weightroom, in the film room and on the field speak volumes about his commitment.
It’s a commitment that’s starting to pay off.
“He’s making some good improvement, feeling more comfortable with it and working hard,” said wide receivers coach Al “Buzz” Preston. “So we’re excited.”
Lands-Davis being excited makes all the difference in successful position change according to Preston.
“If your attitude is right about the change then the process can speed up a lot quicker and be easier,” he said, adding with a laugh, “If you have a negative attitude, which some guys do when you tell them they’re moving, then it’s a little tougher because then I have to put them in a headlock.”
Don’t expect to see for Lands-Davis trying to fight his way out of a Preston headlock any time soon.
He went hard at the Jackets’ off-season conditioning program and came into fall camp having dropped his body fat from 13 percent to nine. He can feel the difference.
“At A-back last year, we did a lot of running but this spring and summer at wide receiver it’s been even more running just to get myself in shape for running `Go’s all the time down the field or doing whatever I need to do,” he said. “I feel a lot better than I’ve ever felt.”
Confidence in his physical state and peace of mind about where he’s going to play has allowed him to fully concentrate on how he’s going to play out wide.
“It is a lot of different rout running and the balls that are thrown are at a different velocity,” he said. “It’s a different kind of ball to catch but I’ve been working with [quarterback] Justin [Thomas] quite a bit, getting on the same page. I feel pretty comfortable. I think I’m ready to step up.”
Lands-Davis’ feeling comfortable with the spread option is big and not just for him.
“A lot of people, now we know what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s not like looking into the headlights. We’re going hard, we know what to do and it’s been showing through camp.”
The attitude of going hard and mixing it up also has been showing up and has been contagious.
“This offense is playing with — I don’t know if it’s a chip on its shoulder — but we’re more aggressive. We’re firing and we’re going hard,” he said. “We have a lot of players that can play. So right now it’s really based on who knows what to do, who’s executing. I think we’re all doing a pretty good job at that. So whoever Coach likes the most, whoever shows up the most is going to play.”