Georgia Football: Branden Smith Being Cleared Isn't Huge News on the Field
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The Georgia Bulldogs made news this weekend, when head coach Mark Richt announced that cornerback Branden Smith will not be suspended after an offseason arrest for possession of marijuana, according to Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Smith was arrested in March on the way to Florida on a misdemeanor possession after police in Alabama pulled him over and found a "baseball-sized package of marijuana" in his car, according to ESPN.com.
Georgia's student athlete substance abuse policy (revised June 1, 2012) requires student-athletes to be suspended for 10 percent of the season (one football game) for positive marijuana tests, but does provide some wiggle room for athletes who are arrested but test clean.
A student-athlete who is observed in the act of drug or alcohol use, or is observed demonstrating the effects of drug or alcohol use, by a UGAA employee, university employee (e.g. resident hall staff) or law enforcement officer may be subject to drug testing and/or treated as a violation of the substance abuse policy.
The AJC reports that Smith passed two drug tests, one by the university and one by the court, soon after being arrested.
The news that Smith has been cleared will make more waves off the field than on it.
Georgia opens up with Buffalo between the hedges on Sept. 1, and if they really need Smith for that game, something is terribly wrong.
He will likely start opposite converted wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who is filling in for suspended cornerback Sanders Commings. How Mitchell plays against Buffalo is far more important than what Smith does.
What does matter is how the two work together as starters in Week 1, because the Bulldogs face off against SEC newcomer Missouri in Week 2, and the Tigers bring a very potent offense to the SEC (475.54 yards per game last season).
Smith being cleared brings more attention to Georgia's early-season discipline issues.
In addition to Commings' suspension, starting linebacker Chase Vasser has been suspended for two games for a DUI arrest. Meanwhile, starting linebacker Alec Ogletree and starting safety Bacarri Rambo are also reportedly facing multiple-game suspensions of their own. The latter two suspensions haven't been confirmed by UGA.
The Georgia program is one that has the perception of having disciplinary issues, which precipitated South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier's offseason comments that have angered Dawg Nation.
That perception is partly Georgia's own doing, thanks to the strict drug policy. Players that are suspended at Georgia wouldn't necessarily be suspended at other schools.
Whether Smith passed tests or not, he was arrested for possession and participated in the pretrial intervention program. The news of him being cleared could set a new precedent for Georgia.
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