published Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Coach Mark Richt addresses player arrests after Georgia's first practice

University of Georgia NCAA college football coach Mark Richt speaks to members of the media  in Athens, Ga., in this file photo.
University of Georgia NCAA college football coach Mark Richt speaks to members of the media in Athens, Ga., in this file photo.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

HERE COMES MORE TROUBLE

The arrests Monday night of four Georgia football players, including starting safety Tray Matthews, on theft by deception charges continues a recent run of offseason mishaps. Some of the more notable ones:

2013 -- Kicker Marshall Morgan is suspended two games for boating under the influence, and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons is suspended one game for smoking marijuana.

2012 -- Safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree receive four-game suspensions for marijuana-related incidents. Cornerback Sanders Commings is suspended two games for a domestic dispute. Cornerback Nick Marshall (dorm room theft) and tailback Isaiah Crowell (weapons possession charges that were later dropped) are among several dismissed from the program.

2011 -- Rambo is suspended for the opener for marijuana possession.

2010 -- Quarterback Zach Mettenberger is dismissed from the program and pleads guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery charges. Receiver A.J. Green is suspended four games after selling a jersey for $1,000.

2009 -- Marijuana-related incidents result in a two-game suspension for defensive end Justin Houston and a six-game suspension for tight end Bruce Figgins.

2008 -- Five players are suspended for the opener, including tackle Clint Boling (reckless driving) and linebacker Darius Dewberry (destruction of hospital property).

College football coaches often strive for balance, but Georgia's Mark Richt found himself answering an equal number of off-the-field queries Tuesday evening after the Bulldogs opened spring practice.

Georgia's first of 15 spring workouts occurred hours after four players -- safety Tray Matthews, receiver Uriah LeMay and defensive linemen James DeLoach and Jonathan Taylor -- were arrested Monday night on multiple charges of theft by deception. All four players were allowed to participate in the practice.

"We definitely wanted to focus on the excitement of the first day of spring ball," Richt said in a news conference. "Obviously we had some guys who did some things that were foolish, and there will be consequences for that. I'm not ready to talk about that at this moment, but we've got a lot of guys who have been doing extremely well.

"We didn't want to take away from the excitement of day one. It's football again."

Junior tailback Todd Gurley (ankle) made it through the inaugural practice, which Richt described as "outstanding," and redshirt junior receiver Malcolm Mitchell (knee) got some work in but did not finish. Richt said everyone practiced some with the exception of tailback Keith Marshall (knee), receiver Justin Scott-Wesley (knee) and tight end Jay Rome (foot).

J.J. Green, the sophomore tailback-turned-cornerback, looked natural on defense, according to Richt, who cut off questions about the arrests at one point to change the subject back to football.

The arrested players took 11 stipend checks at $71.50 apiece from Georgia's athletic association account and deposited them through their provided mobile banking apps. Then they got the checks cashed at a convenience store in an attempt to double the amount they were allowed.

An associate athletic director discovered earlier this month that checks were being cashed twice and contacted police, as the players not only broke the law but NCAA rules on compliance.

"At Georgia, we've never tried to hide things," Richt said. "If somebody makes a mistake, then we clean it up. In due time, everybody is going to know what is going to happen because of it."

Though the four players practiced, Richt did not rule out the possibility of dismissals, adding that there is a process to go through.

Matthews was limited to eight games last season due to a nagging hamstring injury but compiled 36 tackles, 1.5 for loss and one interception. Taylor had nine tackles, 1.5 for loss and a sack in 10 games, while DeLoach had four tackles in five games.

LeMay, the younger brother of former Bulldogs quarterback Christian LeMay, redshirted last season.

Tuesday was Georgia's first practice with new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and new defensive assistants Mike Ekeler, Tracy Rocker and Kevin Sherrer. Richt said the plethora of different faces made him feel like it was his first season in 2001 again, but he had glowing remarks for the newcomers.

"I was pretty impressed with the way the defense got lined up as quickly as they did," Richt said.

Odds and ends

Richt said Hutson Mason is "obviously ahead of everybody" at quarterback, with Faton Bauta ahead of Brice Ramsey for the backup spot. ... Coaches have a goal of giving every defensive starter two special-teams assignments. ... Georgia will practice again Thursday.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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