Josh Harvey-Clemons' Suspension Could Impact Georgia's Title Hopes

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMay 28, 2013

Georgia S Josh Harvey-Clemons (25)
Georgia S Josh Harvey-Clemons (25)Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Uh oh, Georgia head coach Mark Richt has lost control of the offseason again.

Always tricky for Georgia to navigate, the offseason has hit rocky waters quite often over the last few seasons as players such as Isaiah Crowell, Bacarri Rambo, Alec Ogletree and Washaun Ealey have all run into varying degrees of trouble.

Apparently, the 2013 offseason will follow a similar script.

According to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, starting safety Josh Harvey-Clemons will be suspended for the season-opener versus Clemson after being named in an incident involving marijuana in an Athens dorm room on May 15. 

Police were called to a dorm room after receiving a call about the smell of marijuana to find Harvey-Clemons and former tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith—who announced his transfer last week—inside. The two reportedly admitted to "smoking a blunt" when questioned by police. 

According to Georgia's 2012-13 student-athlete handbook, the first violation of the substance abuse policy will result in a suspension of 10 percent of the athletic season (page 25, section 9). 

Harvey-Clemons' suspension could have a major impact on Georgia's national title hopes.

After coming to Athens as a 5-star prospect in the class of 2012 from Valdosta, Ga., Harvey-Clemons played in all 14 games last season, primarily on special teams.

He only had three tackles and one pass breakup in the spring game, but don't be fooled. The 6'5", 220-pound rising sophomore strong safety earned a job in the starting lineup in the revamped Bulldog secondary and is being counted on to solidify the back end of Georgia's defense. 

Not only is he expected to be a major piece of the puzzle for Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, Georgia's early-season schedule creates a major problem for the Bulldogs if key players are held out.

They are already faced with the daunting task of replacing a small village from its 2012 defense, and facing Clemson's hurry-up, no-huddle attack without one of the players expected to step into more of a leadership role is not ideal.

With both programs in the national title hunt, a loss to the Tigers could all but eliminate Georgia from the discussion for the crystal football. Without much margin for error, a Week 1 loss would put an enormous amount of pressure on the Bulldogs.

But it isn't just that one game versus Clemson that's the issue.

The next week, South Carolina rolls into town looking to win its fourth straight over the Bulldogs. Don't sleep on the Gamecocks. They pose a tremendous threat with two quarterbacks—Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson—who could start in most SEC programs, and return a solid group of wide receivers led by Bruce Ellington.

Now it looks like, as its best-case scenario, Georgia will be sending Harvey-Clemons out for his first start against, arguably, its primary competitor for the SEC East title. While the Gamecocks don't boast an offense like their intra-state rival, they are incredibly dynamic and hungry to get back to Atlanta.

Georgia was five yards away from playing for the BCS National Championship following the 2012 season. While Harvey-Clemons wasn't a major contributor on that team, he was a big piece of the 2013 puzzle. That puzzle got a bit harder to solve on Monday with the news of his suspension.