HOOVER, Ala. -- As Abry Jones went from room to room Thursday, serving as a Georgia representative at SEC Media Days, he detected a theme.
Pretty much all the same off-the-field issue questions. How are were gonna do without Isaiah and stuff like that, Jones said.
He was referring to Isaiah Crowell, the tailback who was arrested and dismissed from the team on June 29. But there have been other arrests, reports of drug suspensions and other fodder for media to ask the Bulldogs whether they have a discipline problem.
Its a little bit annoying, Jones said. But I mean, you cant really get annoyed. If it didnt happen, you wouldnt have to answer the question. It just comes with the territory.
This could still end up being a great season for Georgia, especially if the media is correct in predicting the Bulldogs to repeat as SEC East champions. Big things are expected for a team with nine starters back from one of the nations best defenses, a veteran quarterback in Aaron Murray and a favorable schedule.
But the specter of the off-field problems was the dominant story Thursday.
It was the first time head coach Mark Richt has been available to the media since Crowells arrest. Richt only would say that he wished Crowell the best and that the quick dismissal of the SEC freshman of the year was in the best interests of the program.
Three Georgia players have been arrested since January, three more have been kicked off the team, and several more reportedly have failed drug tests.
Were not recruiting bad kids, Richt said. Were recruiting a lot of great kids. Were recruiting the same guys as everybody else in the league.
The discipline problems arent anything new. The program had a string of arrests from 2009-10, but last year was quiet, and the team felt it had turned a corner.
The past six months have reignited the worries. But Jones pointed out that the punishment has been swift and severe.
Hopefully people are getting that this means Coach Richts not messing around, Jones said. We pretty much knew, before the whole Isaiah thing, dealing with all the other players, that pretty much made it clear if people keep getting in trouble thats the route hes gonna take to get it through peoples heads. We knew that was one of the things that Coach Richt was saying. When it happened to Isaiah, it was pretty much Coach Richt standing by his word.
There is another side to it. Crowells loss was felt hard, according to Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, because teammates thought Crowell had turned his life around. Crowell had run into trouble during his freshman season, but teammates had been raving about his improved work habits this offseason.
It was kind of devastating for everybody, because (Crowell) had been working so hard. He hadnt been getting in trouble. He was becoming a leader, said Jarvis Jones, who like Crowell attended Carver-Columbus Carver and said Crowell was like a little brother to him. When something like that happens it kind of upsets some people. But as a team were going to lose some individuals. People leaving for the NFL, people transferring. So youve just got to prepare for that. We hate that we lost him that way. But were still a team here, weve still a goal in mind, weve still got to focus.
Meanwhile, Richt said he does know who will be suspended on defense as a result of the drug tests. But Richt still isnt ready to announce it. Safety Bacarri Rambo has been facing a four-game suspension, and cornerback Branden Smith and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree at least one game. But those have yet to be confirmed by the school. The only suspension that has been announced is cornerback Sanders Commings for two games.
But Jones said the off-field trouble shouldnt reflect on the entire program.
Its the individual that makes the mistake, not the university, he said. Coach Richt isnt in trouble.
Meanwhile, Richt still hasnt announced whether anybody is suspended to start the season, other than cornerback Sanders Commings, who is out two games. For the first time, Richt did say he knew how many games, if at all, certain players would be out. But he declined to announce it yet.
Ill announce that if there needs to be an announcement, Richt said.
Those suspensions would be due to drug tests. Richt was asked by a media member from Missouri why this continues to happen in your program.
People are human, Richt answered. People make mistakes. When they do, you discipline it. Some people have policies, as you mentioned earlier, that bring certain things to light, and some people dont.
That appeared an indirect shot at SEC schools -- basically everybody except Kentucky -- that dont penalize for failed drug tests.
I think you look around our locker room you dont see bad kids, Georgia senior receiver Tavarres King said. You see kids that have made mistakes, and mistakes are going to happen. We cant let it affect our program, weve just gotta roll with the punches.