ATHENS -- Georgias suspension-wracked defense is now wracked by one less suspension.
Cornerback Branden Smith has been cleared to play after it was widely believed he would be suspended one game for a marijuana arrest. Instead, Georgia has decided that Smith should be cleared because he passed drug tests following the incident.
As soon as possible when I got back to the university, I got tested. It was clean. I went to court, got tested, it was clean, Smith said Saturday. So, right now, Ive just moved on. Like I said, I apologize to the university and my family for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The arrest came in March, in Henry County, Ala., while Smith and a friend, Danze Woods, were on their way to Florida for spring break.
Eventually, Smith received pre-trial intervention. Normally under UGA athletics policy, a misdemeanor arrest triggers a one-game suspension for football, but head coach Mark Richt said they had received enough information to let Smith play.
After just gathering all the information, determining what happened, weve got peace that were doing the right thing on Branden, Richt said.
Following the arrest, Smith said he abandoned the spring break plans to return to take care of the situation. He also said he has completed all obligations from the pre-trial intervention.
Theres really nothing to explain, Smith said. It happened. Im clean. I tested clean. I dont do drugs. Im just moving on.
Smith being cleared may not be as important for Georgia in a competitive sense: While he is one of the teams most dynamic players, Georgia opens the season against Buffalo in a game the Bulldogs will be heavily-favored to win. He was always expected to be available for the more vital second game, at Missouri.
But it was still welcome news for a program that has been beset by bad news. Just this week it was announced that another first-teamer, outside linebacker Chase Vasser, was suspended two games following a DUI arrest in May. The other starting cornerback, Sanders Commings, is definitely suspended two games following a January arrest.
The status of two key defensive starters, safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, are also still in question because of reported drug tests.
But for Smith, his news was personally validating.
Its always going to be tough, people thinking you do drugs and you dont, Smith said. They just look at you different. But you know, I passed the drug test and Im just moving on. Im ready for the season. Im happy right now.