UGA loses talented, if misguided, player in Harvey-Clemons

UGA loses talented, if misguided, player in Harvey-Clemons
February 20, 2014, 8:45 am
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ATHENS, Ga. -- The joke goes something like this: the offseason hasn't truly begun until the Georgia football team has suspended or dismissed one of its players.

So it is with Josh Harvey-Clemons, who officially parted ways with the Bulldogs on Tuesday after just two seasons in Athens.

Coming into college, the former UGA safety had everything going for him: elite athleticism, versatility and five-star status as a standout at Lowndes High School. In fact, Rivals.com rated him as the best overall prospect in the state of Georgia in his class. And though he was originally a linebacker, former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham envisioned a situation where the Valdosta, Ga., native could thrive playing safety in the team's base defense and move to "star linebacker" (or nickelback) in passing situations.

Unfortunately, the enduring legacy of Harvey-Clemons with the Bulldogs will be one of a talented player who failed to live up to the hype on the field and could not stay out of trouble off it.

After spending his freshman year as a backup, some postulated that 2013 would be the safety's breakout year. The returns, however, were underwhelming. Harvey-Clemons made his share of plays in the run game and at times flashed his potential, but too often he struggled to find his footing in coverage, generally looking stiff and awkward playing in the slot.

And then, of course, there were his two suspensions, both for violating the program's stringent drug policy.

The official reason given for Harvey-Clemons' exit was violation of team rules, but it is worth noting that UGA will automatically dismiss any student-athlete after three drug-related offenses. Perhaps he committed a third, or perhaps the new defensive coaching staff wanted to make a statement for other reasons. You almost have to wonder if Harvey-Clemons was even in defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's future plans for the secondary at all.

With the former five-star signee now out of the picture, Georgia's situation on defense becomes a bit hazier. Senior Corey Moore appeared in 13 games last season and eventually earned a starting spot at strong safety down the stretch, making him a likely candidate to retain that role. Tramel Terry, originally brought on board as a wide receiver, was converted to safety in December and could continue working at that spot in spring practice. Cornerback Damian Swann may get another run at working in the slot, as well, considering his success there two years ago.

But for Harvey-Clemons, the lasting image of his UGA career just might be his infamous tipped pass turned miracle reception that gave Auburn the win on a fourth-and-19 desperation heave. His off-the-field problems will serve as a cautionary tale for some and he joins the growing list of top recruits to fizzle out at the college level.

Regardless of the underlying reason for his exit, however, losing him could still sting for the Bulldogs in 2014.

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