Georgia football program braces for suspensions

semerson@macon.comMarch 30, 2012 

ATHENS -- Before Thursday’s practice, Georgia football head coach Mark Richt addressed his team amid the news that players were facing suspensions for drug tests.

He didn’t speak for long, and what he said was kept private.

Behind the scenes, an appeals process is playing out that will determine how many starters the Bulldogs will be missing -- and for how many games -- to start the 2012 season.

All-America safety Bacarri Rambo is known to be facing a four-game suspension for a second violation of UGA’s drug policy. Starting inside linebacker Alec Ogletree is also facing a suspension of an unknown length.

The rumor mill was buzzing with other names, on the heels of Rambo’s high school coach, Alan Ingram, saying more players had failed tests.

“I don’t think it’s a big group,” a source said.

The fact that Georgia even suspends for drugs and tests after spring break has come under question. But a famous visitor to Friday’s practice said UGA was doing the right thing.

Bobby Bowden, the legendary former Florida State head coach, was on campus to speak at Richt’s coaching clinic. Richt is a former Bowden assistant.

Speaking to the media Friday morning, Bowden said the testing was necessary.

“Our society needs it. You need something to try to deter these boys and deter these girls from getting into drugs,” Bowden said. “I mean, it’s all throughout our whole society. Why are football players any worse than anyone else? Everybody else is doing the same dadgum thing? So if you have something that deters them, yes, we all oughta do it. But there will be some that will fall through the cracks.”

But Bowden also agreed that the NCAA should have a universal policy on drug testing. Georgia and Kentucky are reportedly the only two SEC programs that have automatic suspensions for positive drug tests.

“But there is an advantage if you’re a school that doesn’t test,” Bowden said. “A school that doesn’t test, you’re not gonna lose kids because of that.”

SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said Friday that the conference is aware of each school’s testing policies, for informational purposes.

“We have had each school send institutional policies to conference for review,” Bloom said in an e-mail. “At this time our institutions have elected not to have a conference drug testing policy, but we continue to review institutional policies.”

Lott transferring

Derrick Lott didn’t need the rest of spring practice to decide it was time to move on from Georgia.

The junior defensive end has elected to transfer in an effort for more playing time, Georgia announced Friday. Lott played in just five games during his Bulldogs career, recording 10 tackles, including 1.5 for loss.

Lott was slowed by a leg injury incurred in a scooter accident, and he ended up playing in just two games.

This spring Lott was hoping to take advantage of the graduation of DeAngelo Tyson, one of only two starters leaving the team. But he was still behind Garrison Smith, who started when Tyson got hurt last year, and this spring Cornelius Washington and Ray Drew were getting snaps at end.

“Derrick and I met, and he believes he will have opportunities for more playing time elsewhere,” Richt said in a statement. “We support him and will assist in any way possible during this process.”

Lott was rated as a four-star prospect by coming out of North Cobb High School in Kennesaw.

Georgia-Clemson series likely again

The renewal of the Georgia-Clemson series, thought to be in peril last week, is back on again.

Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips told an Atlanta radio station Friday that he thinks the series will go on, hopefully as scheduled: 2013 and 2014.

Clemson spokesman Tim Bourret provided a clarification later: “He expects that both games will be played.” But not set enough to make an announcement yet.

For his part, Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said there was “no update on our end.”

Clemson has to deal with a nine-game ACC schedule in the near future, which meant there might not be room to open the 2013 and 2014 seasons against Georgia as planned. It was McGarity who first reached out to Phillips to see if the series was in jeopardy.

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