UGA head coach Mark Richt talks about the Bulldogs' upcoming season at the Pigskin Preview event at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. GRANT BLANKENSHIP/THE TELEGRAPH
Each summer, it seems Georgia head coach Mark Richt must calm his fan base about some sort of suspension and how it will affect the Bulldogs early in the season.
A year ago, things were calm, but the scenario returned in May with the one-game punishment for projected starting safety Josh Harvey-Clemons after he was implicated in an incident involving marijuana in a dorm room.
But Richt said Tuesday at the annual Peach State Pigskin Preview at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame that Harvey-Clemons’ absence for the season opener at Clemson isn’t as huge as people think.
“Even if Josh was starting for us, he’s a pretty inexperienced player right now. Really, at the end of spring, he was No. 1, which meant he was No. 1 going into the fall. I think I kind of made that clear that a lot of guys, even though they’re No. 1 in the spring, (it) didn’t necessarily mean they’re gonna start when the first game came.
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“But he was in the lead at that position. Now, other guys are going to get their chance to go compete for that spot and have a chance to start and have a chance to play.”
Richt has said throughout the offseason that he expects perhaps the most competitive preseason since he has been in Athens. Now, the door is open a little bit more at safety, with the chance to start the highly anticipated game with Clemson as bait.
The roster currently lists seven returning players at the safety positions, but only Corey Moore, Connor Norman and Marc Deas have played. Shaquille Fluker and Paris Bostick are among the newcomers expected to be in the mix.
“Connor obviously has got a lot of experience, Connor understands our system extremely well, and he’s going to be a guy that’s going to have a chance,” Richt said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys coming in. Corey Moore obviously is here. Corey’s been within our system for a good bit, he’s certainly going to be fighting for that role, as well.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt we’ll have the talent base. That position’s going to be a lot like a lot of other parts of our defense: talented, excited, athletic, but inexperienced.”
Harvey-Clemons and Moore had 14 tackles apiece last season, while Norman had 18, and the trio combined for three starts.
“No matter who’s back there, they’re going to be a fairly inexperienced football player,” Richt said. “So I don’t know if it’s going to be a huge difference or not.”