Staff writer Tim Tucker contributed to this article.
Georgia will be without one of its young defensive stars when it opens the season against offensive powerhouse Clemson.
Georgia coach Mark Richt confirmed that sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons, who is slated to start at strong safety next season, is suspended for the Aug. 31 game at Clemson. Richt declined to say why, though indications are it is a violation of UGA’s marijuana-use policy.
“Here’s what I’ll say on that: Josh Harvey-Clemons is going to miss the first game of the season,” Richt, attending the SEC Meetings in Destin, Fla., told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
Harvey-Clemons was involved in an incident in which UGA police were called to a dorm room May 15 to investigate the smell of marijuana. That incident also involved Ty Flournoy-Smith, a tight end, who was advised by Richt last week to seek a transfer. Flournoy-Smith also was arrested and charged in February for reporting a false crime.
According to a UGA Police incident report, police were called to Vandiver Hall at 11:33 p.m. May 15 after a resident assistant detected the odor of marijuana coming from a room in the dorm shared by the players. Police knocked repeatedly on the door of the room before Harvey-Clemons and Flournoy-Smith finally answered.
Police were granted consent to search the residence, and no marijuana was found. However, police said the two men “exhibited signs of marijuana ingestion” with blood-shot eyes and dilated pupils. After questioning, the players admitted they had “smoked a blunt,” which is slang for a using a cigar to smoke marijuana, police said.
During the search, police found a digital scale in one of Flournoy-Smith’s drawers and a plastic bag was found among bathroom trash that contained “a barely visible flake of possible marijuana.” Police advised the two players they would not be arrested, but that the incident would be documented and turned over to the UGA’s Office of Student Conduct. UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson also called Georgia’s coaches to inform them of the incident.
The UGA Athletic Association’s marijuana-use policy calls for a suspension of 10 percent of competition dates for a first-time violation, which translates to one game in football.
Harvey-Clemons (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) earned the starting job at strong safety during spring practice. He played in all 14 games as a freshman, primarily on special teams.
Harvey-Clemons’ loss will hurt the Bulldogs as they face Clemson on national TV in what’s expected to be a matchup of top-10 teams. The Tigers are led by quarterback Tajh Boyd and an offense that ranked sixth in the nation in scoring last season (41.0 ppg) and ninth in yardage (512.69 ypg).
Georgia had to replace seven starters from its 2012 defense. Harvey-Clemons was slated to start alongside freshman Tray Matthews at safety. Now it’s likely that junior Corey Moore or senior Connor Norman will have to step in — or another first-year player such as junior college transfer Shaquille Fluker.