JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Mark Richt arrived here with a stock answer about his two suspended players, and he did not deviate from it.
Three days before, the Georgia football team announced that sophomores Josh Harvey-Clemons and Sheldon Dawson were suspended for the game for a violation of "team regulations." Pressed for further details before a team dinner on Thursday, Richt did not elaborate, even declining to answer if the suspensions will carry into next season.
"I'm only going to talk about the guys that are here," Richt said. "I'm not gonna get into all that stuff."
This is the second time Harvey-Clemons, the team's third-leading tackler, has been suspended this season. He missed the opener because of an offseason violation of the UGA student-athlete drug policy. Asked if Harvey-Clemons' future is a concern, Richt again went to the stock answer.
"I'm not gonna - I'm only going to talk about the guys that are here," Richt said.
Richt did confirm that Harvey-Clemons and Dawson are the only two who did not make the trip for disciplinary or academic reasons.
Senior defensive end Garrison Smith, who said he is close with Harvey-Clemons, thinks the sophomore can recover.
"He can come back from it," Smith said. "I think he's finally gonna realize after this that if it's really important to you, you've gotta make better decisions for real. Bad things are going to happen. he's going to be all right. The guy isn't nothing but 18 or 19 years old, so he's still a child at the end of the day. He's still gotta be responsibile with his opportunity to be a Georgia football player. But he's gonna learn from it, he's gonna rebound, and he's gonna be OK."
As for replacing them, Richt said he did not want to "give away" who would play in their place, but he said they have experienced players who can move into bigger roles. Harvey-Clemons was on the field for almost every defensive down, alternating between strong safety and the nickel back role. Dawson finished the season as one of the three cornerbacks in the nickel defense.
"We'll be fine," Richt said. "We've got guys who will be able to know what to do, have experience, and they'll have to step up and play. We don't need a whole lot of injuries at that position, obviously, or any position for that matter. But we feel like we've got guys who are very good football players who will know what to do."
Asked at the end of the media session if he expects freshmen defensive backs Shaq Wiggins and Tray Matthews (who missed the Georgia Tech game with injuries) to play, Richt cracked: "They better." Then he realized it was a question about their health.
Smith did find one way to inject some light humor into the situation.
"Coach is talking about finally moving me to safety," said Smith, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 299-pounds. "So I'm excited about that. I'll be able to come downhill a little bit."
Christian LeMay set to depart team after bowl
Reserve quarterback Christian LeMay is on the trip, but Richt all but acknowledged that the third-year sophomore plans to transfer after the bowl.
"First of all, the family was hoping to just not make a big deal of it," Richt said. "But they wanted Christian to finish his time with Georgia before any kind of announcement is made. So I'm gonna try to stick to that."
LeMay, a four-star recruit in 2010, has been buried on the depth chart at Georgia. He is reportedly set to transfer to Jacksonville State.
His younger brother Uriah, a freshman receiver who redshirted this season, is also on the trip. Every indication is that Uriah Lemay plans to stick around.
Aaron Murray is not with the team yet but plans to arrive in Jacksonville at some point this week. The injured quarterback is technically not with the team anymore, having forfeited his eligibility by signing autographs for money since his season-ending knee injury.
But Murray does plan to be in attendance, and Richt said everything the quarterback participates in "will be on his own dime."
"We talked to our compliance. Everything he's allowed to be at - gameday, meeting - whatever he's allowed to be at we want him to be at," Richt said.