ATHENS -- Nick Marshall was one of the heralded members of Georgia’s so-called “Dream Team” recruiting class. Chris Sanders and Sanford Seay joined Marshall in that class, which helped reinvigorate the football program.
But one year later, their careers at Georgia came to a quick and unceremonious end.
Marshall and his two fellow freshmen were dismissed from the program Friday. The official reason was a violation of team rules, which sources said stemmed from an incident in which a teammate alleged that cash was stolen from his room.
“It’s a privilege to play college football and to be a part of this team and university,” said head coach Mark Richt said in a statement. “Along with that privilege comes certain responsibilities. Mistakes were made and part of our job is helping them learn from mistakes. Going forward, we are committed to assisting them find opportunities where they can continue their education.”
The news has a big impact on the team, especially in the secondary. Marshall and Sanders mainly played on special teams this year, but they were expected to contribute on defense in 2012 and contend for starting spots in future years.
“Nick had a tremendous opportunity at Georgia, and he screwed up,” said Mark Ledford, who was Marshall’s head coach at Wilcox County. “Just because you make a bad mistake doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”
Marshall appeared in 13 games this year, making five tackles. Sanders played in three games before a season-ending injury, and he was expected to receive a medical redshirt. Seay, who was not considered a major recruit, redshirted this past season.
Marshall and his teammates were informed of their dismissal Friday morning. It was unclear when the dorm room incident occurred; UGA police chief Jimmy Williamson said there was no record of an incident report.
Ledford declined to discuss specifics of the incident. Ledford also said he’d heard from schools already Friday who were interested in Marshall.
“He needs to sit down and get everything in order and, if he does that, then I think he still has a bright future,” Ledford said.
Marshall came to Georgia following one of the most impressive high school careers in Middle Georgia history.
He became the only player ever to be twice named The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Football Player of the Year. He also earned the honor as The Telegraph’s boys basketball player of the year twice. He was a five-time all-state player, three times in football and twice in basketball. He was the AP’s Class A Offensive Player of the Year twice in football, and he earned the AP Class A Player of the Year honors in basketball once.
Marshall broke the state career touchdown passing record with 103 touchdowns, 11 more than anyone else in state history.
Wilcox County went 34-5 with Marshall as the starting quarterback, and he led the Patriots to the 2009 Class A state championship, the only football championship in school history. The basketball team played in two Final Fours, and he averaged more than 25 points per game in each of his final three years in high school.
“It’s disappointing anytime something like that happens,” said Georgia men’s basketball head coach Mark Fox, who also recruited Marshall.
Fox said he hadn’t spoken to Marshall on Friday, and he expected he would pursue football at another school.
“I don’t know what his plans are,” Fox said. “Obviously he was on a football scholarship, and we do not have a basketball scholarship for him. I would think that would have to dictate he would have to go somewhere else.”
Meanwhile, Georgia has to figure out what to do with a secondary that is suddenly hurting for depth.
The five top players in the secondary are all back -- four rising seniors and Damian Swann, another Dream Teamer. But the status of starting cornerback Sanders Commings, who was charged two weeks ago with misdemeanor domestic violence, is still under review.
And Jordan Love, a cornerback who played in nine games this year, decided in January to transfer. The team only signed one defensive back in this year’s class, Sheldon Dawson from Memphis, Tenn.
The remaining scholarship cornerbacks are Commings, fellow starter Branden Smith, rising sophomore Damian Swann, redshirt freshman Devin Bowman and Blake Sailors, a former walk-on and special teams standout.
Corey Moore, who played in 12 games as a freshman, was slated for safety, but he could be given a look at cornerback now. So could Quintavius Harrow, who played on special teams this year as a freshman.
Georgia could also end up switching some players at other positions to the secondary. Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham are not expected to be available for comment for a week or more.
Contact Seth Emerson at firstname.lastname@example.org and Jonathan Heeter at email@example.com.