- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Considering how he accounted for all of 14 tackles as a true freshman, perhaps it is premature for some observers in the media to declare Josh Harvey-Clemons as Georgia’s next big defensive star. But Georgia’s coaching staff didn’t do anything to diminish the hype when it named the versatile sophomore as the Bulldogs’ defensive MVP at the end of spring practice.
At 6-foot-5 and around 220 pounds, Harvey-Clemons looks more like a shooting guard on Georgia’s basketball team than the SEC football star he could become this fall. And yet his multi-positional versatility could make him one of the league’s more difficult defenders to plan for, as -- at least for now -- it’s unclear where defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has in mind for him right now.
We know he plans to use Harvey-Clemons as a strong safety in Georgia’s base defense and in a nickelback/outside linebacker hybrid role at times when the Bulldogs employ a nickel defense. It might take a game or two, though, before opponents develop an idea of where Harvey-Clemons might line up at any given time.
Even when they finally figure out Harvey-Clemons’ probable location, it will be another thing altogether to make plays against him. He’s quick, he has strong coverage skills and he likes to hit. That sounds like a solid SEC defender -- and a player Georgia fans will enjoy watching for at least the next two seasons.
2012 review: Although he made some noise with a handful of interceptions during preseason practice, Harvey-Clemons’ role was limited almost exclusively to special teams as a freshman. He played in all 14 games and totaled 14 tackles, one tackle for a loss and one pass breakup.
2013 preview: Count on seeing the sophomore all over the place this fall. He’ll play some safety in the base defense. He’ll play nickelback. He’ll play outside linebacker. And there’s a better-than-average chance that he’ll wreak some havoc from all three.
Spring prospectus: Harvey-Clemons was one of the most scrutinized players entering spring practice, but he won the Bulldogs’ defensive MVP award just before G-Day. Grantham said Harvey-Clemons won the award because he was one of the Bulldogs’ most consistent playmakers throughout the spring.
Career potential: The ceiling for Harvey-Clemons is perhaps as high as it is for any player on Georgia’s roster. Questions remain as to where he will eventually settle positionally, but the hybrid role Grantham envisions will be allow him to take advantage of Harvey-Clemons’ wide range of skills. Perhaps if he adds weight, he can become a full-time outside linebacker -- the position where ESPN listed him as the top prospect of 2012 -- but it might simply be that Harvey-Clemons never fits into a particular box. Regardless, he will almost certainly become one of Georgia’s top defensive players this fall and seems on track for college stardom.
23hSam Khan Jr. and Derek Tyson