ATHENS - Todd Grantham is having some fun with Josh Harvey-Clemons' talents, and he won't be done for awhile.
The highly-touted freshman from Valdosta is playing safety so far for Georgia ... emphasis on so far ... after moving from outside linebacker. But Harvey-Clemons, who has an unusual blend of size and athleticism, is being used in other ways.
Georgia has a so-called "star" position on defense, which is essentially a nickel-back that can double as an outside linebacker. The Bulldogs use it in a number of base sets, whether in the 3-4 or 4-2-5. Grantham described it as an "underneath zone player."
When Harvey-Clemons sees the field early on this season, that's where he's most likely to be playing. Grantham explained that Harvey-Clemons is at safety because most of the "verbiage and concepts" he will need for the star position come with the defensive backs.
“Whereas if he were in my meeting (at outside linebacker) he would hear it for 25-30 percent of the time," Grantham said. "The things he’s gonna do, whether he’s playing the star position, the safety position or another position, he’s gonna hear more often in that meeting. And it’s always easier to learn things from top down.”
Grantham compared it to Alec Ogletree, who was at safety his first year.
“But truthfully in my mind there was gonna be a point in time even then we were eventually gonna move him. And by him playing (safety) his first year, when he moved, he knew where the pieces around him fit," Grantham said. "So it made his learning curve less. So I think by playing Josh where he is now, it gives him a better feel for the whole body of work. When he gets to his position, he kind of knows where everyone fits.”
The natural question, then, is whether Harvey-Clemons could eventually move to inside linebacker, just as Ogletree did?
“He can play anywhere," Grantham said. "He can play where needed.”
That's the key to Harvey-Clemons' future on this defense. At 210 pounds (on a day he ate a big dinner), Harvey-Clemons is too small for linebacker. But he's a good hitter, and
Grantham said that among the freshmen, Harvey-Clemons has the best ability to cover ground. So Grantahm would rather get him as close to the ball as possible, especially since he's 6-foot-5.
“He’s a guy who’s really range, who’s tall," Grantham said. "He’s very physical, and the further away you get from the ball the more physical he becomes. That’s what allows him to be the kind of guy we’re looking for at that position.”