It was pretty much inevitable, and better now than later.
That sums up many fans’ reaction Tuesday when UGA’s athletic department issued a terse announcement that junior defensive back Josh Harvey-Clemons had been dismissed from the team for yet another violation of team rules.
It’s safe to say almost no one was shocked by this turn of events. Disappointed, yes. But considering Harvey-Clemons opened and closed last season missing games due to two separate suspensions involving marijuana and was due to miss the first three games of 2014 in a continuation of that second suspension, this was no surprise.
The offseason consensus seemed to be it was only a matter of time until the talented player from Valdosta was gone from the UGA program.
What with UGA having the toughest disciplinary policies in the conference and several big-name players having been shown the door in recent seasons, Bulldog Nation has somewhat reluctantly gotten used to this sort of thing — to the point where a sort of gallows humor has become an instant reflex. Almost within seconds of word of Harvey-Clemons’ dismissal hitting social media Tuesday, the jokes about him probably winding up becoming a future star at Auburn started showing up.
And with painful visions of that notorious game-losing play Harvey-Clemons had a hand in last season still burned in our memories, one fan even noted: “He already has experience helping Auburn beat us.”
Unfair, I know, but he unfortunately earned that sort of knock.
Of course, some fans still grumble that Georgia ought to lighten up on the rules and slide back to where most football programs stand on such things, but most of us have accepted that just isn’t going to happen as long as Mark Richt and Greg McGarity are in charge. And some of us even take pride in their firm stance on discipline, no matter how costly it is.
Yes, you can debate whether rules involving a substance that is now legal in some states should even be on the books for college athletes, but the fact remains that it’s illegal in this state and George isn’t likely to join Colorado on the other side of the issue any time soon.
And as long as you have rules, players who refuse to abide by them, even when they’ve been slammed with significant punishment for previous infractions, generally are more trouble than they’re worth.
That was another constant in reactions Tuesday to the news. Most fans seemed to agree with recent Bulldog tight end Artie Lynch, who tweeted: “Just to be clear, those who decide not to do it the RIGHT way do not deserve to don the Red & Black. It is a privilege, not a right.”
Also, considering he was pretty much a nonfactor in his freshman year and his play as a sophomore when not on suspension was up-and-down — he was third on the team in tackles but struggled mightily in pass coverage in Todd Grantham’s hybrid linebacker-safety “star” position — the loss of Harvey-Clemons isn’t the clear-cut disaster you’d expect when it involves a five-star recruit.
Yes, he was talented and showed great promise at times, but his dismal record off the field was paired an inconsistent performance on it, and you’ve got to wonder whether the two were connected. Here’s hoping this young man gets himself straightened out soon.
As for the better-now-than-later reaction to Harvey-Clemons’ departure, that’s based on the experience of recent seasons when the absence of key players at the start of the season has proved to be distracting and disruptive, interfering with the defensive team getting itself together. All that shuffling around of personnel in the secondary last year got its start thanks to Harvey-Clemons being out. And he was already going to be out for three games this coming season, including two of the biggest games.
At least now the new defensive staff can spend the spring assessing talent and planning for the opening of the season without having to put an asterisk by one would-be starter’s name. And the Bulldogs are not devoid of talent capable of taking over from Harvey-Clemons. Damian Swann actually played better at star subbing for Harvey-Clemons last year than he did in his regular cornerback spot. Plus there’s the likes of Tramel Terry — recently moved to safety from the offense, possibly with the impending loss of Harvey-Clemons in mind — along with Quincy Mauger and incoming Malkom Parrish.
Don’t get me wrong, I would have preferred for Harvey-Clemons to straighten up and become the star player, in every sense of the word, that the coaches thought him capable of being. The track record of players dismissed from Georgia finding success elsewhere is impossible to overlook.
Any way you look at it, the story of Harvey-Clemons in Athens is a sad one. To quote Lynch again, “taking UGA for granted is a life altering mistake. It is too special to throw away.”
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg