Georgia coach Mark Richt announced after Saturday morning's practice that cornerback Branden Smith will be available for the Bulldogs' season-opening game against Buffalo.
Smith was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in March during spring break, but Richt said that after examining the details of the case, Smith will not be suspended.
"After just gathering all the information, determining what happened, we’ve got peace that we’re doing the right thing," Richt said.
Smith is among at least three projected defensive starters who have been arrested since the end of last season. Cornerback Sanders Commings and outside linebacker Chase Vasser will both serve two-game suspensions to open the season, but Smith was able to avoid game punishment for his off-field incident.
Smith entered a pre-trial diversion program in May and said he passed drug tests immediately after his arrest that proved he was not using marijuana.
"I’m happy that everything got cleared," said Smith, speaking to reporters for the first time since his arrest.
The senior's availability brings unexpected depth to Georgia's secondary in the early season, following a tumultuous offseason. Smith started seven games last season and played in all 14, contributing on offense, defense and special teams. He made 24 tackles and two interceptions, rushed for 100 yards on 13 carries, caught three passes for 39 yards and also returned a handful of kickoffs and punts.
Smith said he was relieved that his case was resolved in such a way as to provide some good news.
"Nobody wants to hear bad things with the players," Smith said. "We’re just sticking together. No matter what happens, we’re just sticking together and good things are going to turn out."
The Bulldogs lost only two starters -- cornerback Brandon Boykin and defensive end DeAngelo Tyson -- from last season's talented defense and most of their top reserves remain, as well, so Smith said he remains excited about the group's capabilities, particularly when everyone is available.
"We have our whole defense coming back," he said. "Out there today, we were practicing hard, strong and just fast. Everybody’s having fun out there. We’re just ready for the season to start. We’re connecting as one group and we’re just going with it."