If, as a Georgia fan, you’d been asked after spring drills to pick a single player (besides Aaron Murray) you’d absolutely not want to lose for the season opener at Clemson, it probably would have been Josh Harvey-Clemons.
The sophomore, signed as a five-star prospect and pegged as a rising star in Todd Grantham’s rebuilding defense, was slotted to start at safety and at the hybrid linebacker-safety “star” position in the nickel defense — which is where he primarily would have played against Clemson’s explosive, uptempo offense. Grantham basically had guaranteed this spring that Harvey-Clemons would be a starter this fall, no matter what. “He’ll be one of the 11,” the defensive coordinator had flatly stated.
Well, not against Clemson.
Almost predictably (as Steve Spurrier would note), the Bulldogs once again will find themselves opening the season with at least one key player, Harvey-Clemons, suspended for violating team rules.
Naturally, there’s a lot of frustration among fans (not to mention the coaches) over UGA players continuing to ignore the rules at a school they know has one of the nation’s toughest drug policies for athletes. (And, again, it’s worth noting that at quite a few other SEC institutions of higher learning a transgression like Harvey-Clemons’ would not result in any loss of playing time.)
But this kind of situation is getting to be old hat in Athens, so the news of Harvey-Clemons being suspended for a game also was greeted with a sort of we-knew-this-would-happen-soon-or-later resignation.
(Also, now we know why tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith, Harvey-Clemons’ roommate, was encouraged by coach Mark Richt to transfer, having chalked up his second spate of trouble in the past few months. In that case, I think we can safely say: good riddance.)
Is losing Harvey-Clemons a game-breaker?
Probably not. Sporting a high-octane offense that was ranked sixth in the nation last year in scoring and ninth in yardage, Tajh Boyd and Co. were probably going to move the ball and score points in abundance against a very green Georgia defense whether Harvey-Clemons was playing the star position or not.
Even if his replacement as the nickel back — be it junior Devin Bowman, fast-learning early entrant Reggie Wilkerson or maybe an incoming freshman like Shaq Wiggins — plays a superlative game, Georgia’s chances against Clemson likely will ride mainly on Mike Bobo’s offense.
Still, the situation is disheartening, because Harvey-Clemons was on the team last year and knows how disruptive it was to Grantham’s defense to start out the season with several players suspended. (A case can be made that the Georgia D never really recovered fully from that handicap and yet still came within one play of being in the national championship game.)
Maybe that guarantee of a starting spot from Grantham gave Harvey-Clemons some sort of misguided Teflon mindset, like it couldn’t happen to him. News flash, son: You’re at UGA, where violating the rules actually results in punishment!
This isn’t a major blow to the chances for Richt’s 2013 team, but it’s indicative of a bigger problem that seems to recur season after season.
Bulldog players talk a lot about how much potential they think their team has, and yet they continue to shoot themselves in the foot.
There’s still more talking the talk than walking the walk in Athens, and until that changes, the program isn’t likely to fully live up to its potential.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg