ATHENS — Georgia had more offseason troubles than we originally thought.
Chase Vasser, a junior outside linebacker from Gainesville, was arrested for driving under the influence back in May in Atlanta, Georgia officials confirmed on Thursday. The 21-year-old projected starter has been suspended for the first two games of the season as per UGA’s student-athlete conduct code, team spokesman Claude Felton confirmed late Thursday evening.
No other information was immediately available on Vasser’s arrest, which occurred May 11 in Buckhead. However, the Athens Banner-Herald reports that Vasser has a scheduled court appearance on Aug. 21 at the City of Atlanta Municipal Court.
The suspension of Vasser, who is 21, makes him at least the fourth defensive starter expected to miss playing time for the Bulldogs this season. Cornerback Sanders Commings is already suspended two games for a January arrest on domestic violence charges. Cornerback Branden Smith, safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree are also facing suspensions for team rules violations but Georgia has not announced their punishments.
Meanwhile, four other Georgia players have been dismissed since the end of last season. Starting tailback Isaiah Crowell was arrested on June 29 on three weapons charges and kicked off the team that same day. Defensive backs Nick Marshall and Chris Sanders and wide receiver Sanford Seay were dismissed in early February for their involvement in the theft of a teammates’ dorm room.
Dogs ranked No. 6 by coaches
Despite all the offseason troubles, there continues to be high expectations for the Bulldogs this season. Georgia was ranked No. 6 by college coaches in the USA Today preseason poll released on Thursday.
“We’re not worried about it,” junior quarterback Aaron Murray said. “Last year we ignored the negativity and all the bad talk about Georgia and this year we’re going to ignore all the positive stuff. We’re just going to focus on what we need to do, and that’s work hard, show up to practice every day with the right attitude, get in the film room, get in the weight room and do a lot of little things to make sure we have a successful season.”
Sixth is the school’s highest preseason ranking since it opened the 2008 season ranked No. 1. The Bulldogs actually dropped to No. 3 without losing a game the first four weeks that year, then fell to 11th after losing to Alabama 41-30 in the infamous “blackout game.” They finished 10-3 after a win in the Capital One Bowl.
LSU and Alabama, who played in the national championship last season, were ranked 1 and 2, respectively second and Southern California third. Oklahoma and Oregon round out the top five.
Thursday was preseason media day for the Bulldogs, so selected players were made available for interviews before practice. Here’s some of their comments:
Sophomore Malcolm Mitchell on playing both cornerback and wide receiver:
“At first it was just something I wanted to do to expand my game, but now it’s become a necessity. But it’s something I look forward to doing to help the team until we can regroup and get everybody back here. . . . It’s fun and I like doing them both. You just have to push yourself.”
Senior tailback Richard Samuel on third position change:
“I feel like switching between running back and linebacker slowed down my development because I didn’t have much time to get used to the linebacker position. Switching between fullback and running back hasn’t slowed my down too much because it’s basically the same plays and I just have to learn the little differences.”
All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones on expectations:
“We know what we’re capable of. We had a lot of hype last year, and we had a great run. This year, we know that people are expecting us to be way better. We’re just going to take it all in stride. We’re going to go out there everyday and make it our best, practice at our best, and then try to take it from there. Everything starts in practice so we’re just going to go through these days in camp and have fun doing it to try to get out everything we can before September 1.”
Senior strong safety Shawn Williams on playing for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham:
“One thing that I’ve picked up from him is to be accountable and to know your stuff. That proves how valuable you are in the system that we run. Having him here is like a blessing to us, and his mindset that he brings to the table helps us a lot.”
It’s always interesting to see what numbers first-year players will get as they embark on Georgia careers. Defensive back Sheldon Dawson of Memphis snapped up the No. 2 previously worn by Brandon Boykin, wide receiver Blake Tibbs snatched the No. 8 once donned by A.J. Green and place-kicker Marshall Morgan got the lucky No. 13 that punter Drew Butler had the last four years.
Other jersey numbers claimed by incoming freshmen who weren’t midyear enrollees include: Punter Collin Barber (32), linebacker Josh Dawson (91), linebacker James DeLoach (89), tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith (80), tailback Todd Gurley (3), linebacker/safety Josh Harvey-Clemons (25), fullback Quayvon Hicks (48), linebacker Jordan Jenkins (59), offensive lineman Greg Pyke (73), defensive lineman John Taylor (94) and offensive lineman John Theus (71).
Scene and heard
The Bulldogs practiced for two hours in their first of 28 preseason workouts… . The first-string offensive line lined up this way: left tackle Kenarious Gates, left guard Dallas Lee, center David Andrews, right guard Chris Burnette and right tackle Watts Dantzler… . Highly-touted freshman Josh Harvey-Clemons was wearing the No. 25 and was working with the safeties.