ATHENS — The short and chaotic Georgia career of Josh Harvey-Clemons has ended.
Harvey-Clemons was dismissed from the football team Tuesday for an unspecified violation of team rules. The team announced the news in a two-sentence news release by the school, with no other details.
Harvey-Clemons, a five-star recruit two years ago, was a key member of last year’s defense and was expected to be again this season — but only if he was on the field.
The Valdosta native already was facing a three-game suspension to start this season, which was a continuation of a suspension that began with the Gator Bowl, for his second violation of Georgia’s student-athlete drug policy.
He becomes just the latest highly touted Georgia recruit to be dismissed from the team: Isaiah Crowell, Nick Marshall and Zach Mettenberger are the most notable.
Harvey-Clemons started 11 games as a sophomore last season, alternating between strong safety and the nickelback role. He was Georgia’s third-leading tackler last season and also had three fumble recoveries and an interception.
But he was also involved in one of the most memorable low moments, failing to bat down Auburn’s miracle touchdown pass in a stunning loss to the Tigers.
“That’s been on my mind,” Harvey-Clemons said three weeks later after the team’s win over Georgia Tech. “People talk bad about you on the media and on Twitter. But my family did a good job, my coaches did a good job of keeping me focused, of having a short-term memory, to keep focused and get better every week.”
Two years ago, Harvey-Clemons was the story of Georgia’s signing day class, both because he was a highly recruited player — picking Georgia over Florida, among many others — but also because of the drama surrounding his signing. Harvey-Clemons committed to Georgia on signing day morning, but his grandfather, who is his main guardian, declined to sign the national letter-of-intent for 24 hours. In the meantime head coach Mark Richt, unaware of the situation, commented on Harvey-Clemons on television, and Georgia had to report a secondary violation.
Harvey-Clemons did not play much as a freshman, relegated mostly to special teams. But he was the defensive MVP of Georgia’s spring in 2013, raising hopes for his potential last season. Then he was suspended for the opener against Clemson after a dorm incident in which he and then-teammate Ty Flournoy-Smith were suspected of smoking marijuana.
Flournoy-Smith transferred to Georgia Military College and then signed earlier this month with Alabama. Harvey-Clemons will now also continue his career elsewhere.
Georgia’s defense, meanwhile, will miss a player with great potential but one who never quite found a position. At 6-foot-5, Harvey-Clemons had the height for linebacker, but at 220 pounds — his listed weight last season — he didn’t have the size for that position. So he was the team’s strong safety in its base 3-4 defense, and for most of the season, he occupied the star position, a hybrid of safety and outside linebacker.
Early last year then-defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Harvey-Clemons’ skill set was “pretty rare.” Grantham built much of his 2013 defensive plan around Harvey-Clemons at the star in the nickel defense.
“We thought he was pretty athletic (when we signed him), but once we got him here and saw his coverage skills and saw his length, he creates a different dimension for that position,” Grantham said last September.
But the grand plans for Harvey-Clemons didn’t work out as planned last year, with Harvey-Clemons often struggling in pass coverage and not recording a sack. He did excel when his speed came into use and recorded 5.5 tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.
Georgia’s secondary is in flux right now, with new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt set to evaluate every player anew. Pruitt will coach the secondary, while defensive assistant Kevin Sherrer will coach the star position. The absence of Harvey-Clemons, while not ideal, does clear up the uncertainty both around where to play him and what would have happened when he returned from his suspension.
Tramel Terry, a highly touted receiver recruit last year, moved to safety during bowl practice. Malkom Parrish, a cornerback, was one of the team’s higher-rated signees earlier this month. Those two will join what remains a crowded field of candidates for playing time. Damian Swann, who will be a senior, played the star position near the end of last season and is a candidate to play that role, if he’s not starting at cornerback. But so could practically anyone, as Pruitt and Sherrer may very well have different ideas than the previous defensive staff on the star position and who would best fill it.
At strong safety, Corey Moore finished the season strong at that spot, and will be a senior next season. Terry could also be a factor there. Georgia is scheduled to begin spring practice on March 18, and at that point Pruitt will make more of his intentions clear.