ATHENS — Georgia coach Mark Richt remained tight-lipped about the availability of safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree for Saturday’s season opener against Buffalo.
It has been reported since March that the two all-star defenders are suspended for the first four games following a second violation of the UGA athletic association’s marijuana-use policy. However, neither Richt nor any UGA officials have confirmed those reports to date.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs listed both players as starters in the depth chart for the first game, which was released before Tuesday’s weekly news conference. However, Richt retreated into evasive mode when asked what he expected to see from those players during Saturday’s game.
“I just think we’ll have to wait and see,” he said coyly. “Time will tell.”
Alan Ingram, Rambo’s head coach at Seminole County High in Donalsonville, said in no uncertain terms back in March that Rambo told him he was going to be suspended for the first four games of the season after he and other UGA players allegedly failed surprise drug tests shortly after spring break. Ingram said Rambo told him it was his second violation of UGA’s marijuana-use policy for student-athletes, which calls for a suspension of 30 percent of competition dates and said that Ogletree was in the same situation. In the case of football players, that means four games.
Reached by telephone on Tuesday at Seminole County High, Ingram said he has no reason to believe anything has changed.
“I’ve seen Bacarri on several occasions since then and we honestly haven’t spoken about it,” said Ingram, a high school coach for 41 years. “I suppose he’s just going on with everything and will see what happens. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know anything more than I do. Of course, they may have told him not to talk to me about it. I just don’t know.”
Ingram said it’s possible he could be left out of the loop. So far he has been the only person to speak on the record about the situation. He said Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo came down and met with him shortly after Rambo’s news broke in March.
“Mike came down here a few days later and we discussed it,” In gram said. They didn’t have a problem with [Ingram talking]. I certainly didn’t have a problem with it. I did what the kid asked me to do. I’ve been around long enough that there’s not much that can hurt me anyway.”
Neither player has been made available for interviews since that information came to light six months ago. There have been indications that the Bulldogs, at this point, are trying to use the uncertainty as a strategic advantage against their opponents.
Richt admitted that Georgia has modified its disciplinary policies, which previously included an announcement beforehand that a player was being suspended from play.
” I don’t know if there’s anything etched in stone, but we are handing it a little bit different this year,” Richt said. “I don’t know if I can even say why. But we are definitely handling it just a little bit different.”
Regardless of all the rhetoric, it’s clear that Georgia is expecting to have to shuffle its defensive lineup early in the season. The Bulldogs already know they’re going to be without Sanders Commings, who’s two-game suspension for a domestic violence arrest was announced in February. Starting outside linebacker Chase Vasser is also out two games due to a May arrest for DUI. Converted receiver Malcolm Mitchell was listed as the starter at Comming’s boundary cornerback position and Ramik Wilson is listed as the starter at Vasser’s Sam linebacker spot.
It’s anticipated that senior Christian Robinson will get the call at Ogletree’s Mo linebacker position. Former walkon Connor Norman is listed as Rambo’s backup at free safety or the Bulldogs could move strong safety Shawn Williams to free and start Corey Moore at the strong safety. Clearly, the defense is expecting to make adjustments.
“These guys will be out for a while, but it won’t be a problem because whenever they come back we’ll be ready to play and we’ll have more depth,” said Robinson, who is listed as the backup for Ogletree at “Mo” inside linebacker. “They just tell everybody to be ready; you never know where you could be [playing]. I might be playing cornerback. Who knows?”
Ingram certainly isn’t expecting to see Rambo play early this season. But he said he believes the experience will ultimately be good for his former pupil.
“Bacarri’s a grown man now and he’s just going to take it,” Ingram said. “Whatever comes down is what’s going to happen. He wants to do some big things at Georgia, whether it’s seven or eight ballgames or 10 or 12, whatever. That’s the way he’s looking at it and that’s the way he sees it.”