Georgia Bulldogs: James Deloach
- Safety Tray Matthews, who was dismissed by Georgia on Tuesday, is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday in Athens, Ga., along with two Bulldogs players and one other former player on charges of theft by deception. Matthews, defensive end James DeLoach, defensive lineman Jon Taylor, and former UGA wide receiver Uriah LeMay were arrested in March for illegally cashing scholarship checks twice.
- After two of Texas A&M's key sophomore defensive players were arrested and kicked off the team on Tuesday, some are wondering what it's going to take to keep the Aggies out of jail. Seven players have been arrested since the end of last season. Tuesday's arrest was the third in seven months for ex-LB Darian Claiborne. It was the second offseason arrest for dismissed DT Isaiah Golden.
- The Miami Hurricanes have reportedly been approached about playing a kickoff classic game against either Alabama in 2017 or LSU in 2018.
- Ole Miss defensive back Chief Brown tore his Achilles' heel in an offseason workout and will likely miss the 2014 season.
- Vanderbilt announced the transfer of former LSU quarterback Stephen Rivers, who can play right away. Head coach Derek Mason says he's excited about his QB competition this August.
- Six SEC players are among the Heisman Trophy favorites according to one Vegas sportsbook. They are Auburn QB Nick Marshall, South Carolina RB Mike Davis, Georgia RB Todd Gurley, Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott, and Alabama RBs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.
- One of Georgia's 2014 signees, wide receiver Gilbert Johnson, did not qualify academically.
- Two of Florida's games this fall -- at Alabama and vs. Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla. -- are among the most expensive tickets out there.
- Count Kentucky's Mark Stoops among the SEC coaches who favor an early signing period. But, he says, not too early.
- LSU's highly anticipated running back signee Leonard Fournette hung out with rapper Master P recently and ran a race.
- South Carolina will erect a statue of Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers outside of Williams-Brice Stadium.
The games are months and months away, but coaches are on high alert with the temptations that usually dwindle during the regular season. Right now, Georgia and Missouri are feeling the effects of a long offseason, as both programs watched four players get arrested in the last few days.
For the Bulldogs, starting safety Tray Matthews and three reserves were arrested and charged with theft by deception Monday evening. At Missouri, four athletes, including defensive backs Aarion Penton and Shaun Rupert, were arrested Saturday night on suspicion of possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana during a traffic stop.
Matthews is clearly the biggest name on this list, but Penton was expected to compete for a starting spot at cornerback for the Tigers. Mizzou already is replacing three starters in its secondary, while the Bulldogs lost other starting safety Josh Harvey-Clemons earlier this year when he was dismissed from the team.
Penton and Rupert have been suspended indefinitely. Georgia coach Mark Richt issued a statement that said the incident "will be handled in an appropriate way."
So what is the theft and deception from the Georgia players? Well, three allegedly took their stipend checks from the school and deposited them with a mobile app and then cashed them somewhere else. That doesn't fly. You can't take money twice.
The other three players arrested and charged were defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor, outside linebacker James DeLoach and receiver Uriah LeMay. All backups, but all players who add depth to a defense looking to rebound across the board in 2014.
Now before you start the "Mark Richt has lost control" message board or Twitter banter, this is something that was completely out of his hands. A situation so ridiculous and idiotic isn't something Richt can monitor. He has to trust that his players won't make boneheaded decisions like this one that put themselves and their team in jeopardy. This is a breach of trust.
All of these players put themselves in bad situations and now have to pay the consequences. The invincibility complex is an epidemic that inflicts student-athletes all across the college landscape.
Georgia and Missouri are dealing with this complex right now, and it has to be frustrating, especially when dealing with players at key positions and spring ball just getting underway.
Losing Matthews for any amount of time would be a huge blow for the Bulldogs because there already is so much uncertainty at safety, and the secondary in general. Matthews didn't have a stellar freshman season in Athens and dealt with nagging injuries, but he's experienced and has a wealth of talent and potential. He's supposed to be a leader, but something like this doesn't help that reputation.
Penton was atop the Tigers' depth chart at one of the corner spots and filled in well for E.J. Gaines last year when Gaines was injured. Losing him for any amount of time means a more inexperienced player will get reps, which is good, but having the favorite held out of practice isn't exactly what you want when there is no proven player at the position.
Richt and Gary Pinkel have to be extremely frustrated and disappointed in their players, but they have to move forward. Future punishments will come, but all these coaches can do now is shove other players into their spots and keep things rolling.
- Four Georgia players were arrested and charged with multiple counts of theft by deception on Monday. Safety Tray Matthews, defensive linemen Jonathan Taylor and James DeLoach and receiver Uriah LeMay are alleged to have “double-dipped” stipend checks.
- The Bulldogs begin spring practice, and here are five things to know.
- Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn't feel a mobile quarterback is ideal for the Crimson Tide's style and explains why here.
- Fans who follow Auburn know about coach Gus Malzahn's affinity for an up-tempo offense. He said he wants his unit to go even faster this fall.
- Missouri cornerback Aarion Penton and safety Shaun Rupert were among four Tigers student-athletes arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession on Saturday (the other two were basketball players). All four athletes have been suspended.
- Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze addressed the status of suspended linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche after a video surfaced that allegedly showed Nkemdiche cursing at what appeared to be Mississippi State fans.
- Florida receiver Solomon Patton shined on a rainy pro day for the Gators.
- A host of notes from Auburn's first spring practice today.
- Mississippi State's full spring practice schedule. Of the 15 practices, 14 are open to the public. And there are holes to fill for the Bulldogs, including at running back and offensive line.
- Discussing the SEC's best defensive linemen.
- Ole Miss guard Aaron Morris talks about his progress from rehabilitating his ACL injury and how tough it was to miss last season.
Today we continue a series where we examine five position groups with room to improve. After touching on the inside linebackers and offensive line, today we focus on the outside linebackers, who were inconsistent last season despite worlds of potential.
Battling for No. 1: The starters here seem fairly easy to predict, as rising junior Jordan Jenkins and sophomore Leonard Floyd combined for 21 starts a season ago. Floyd made a big splash during preseason camp and was one of the pleasant surprises of the fall, leading the team with 6.5 sacks and adding 9.5 tackles for a loss. Jenkins had a fairly quiet season, posting five sacks and a team-high 12 TFLs. Both players need to do a better job of controlling the edge against the run, as last season's disappointing defensive results often proved. They have clear pro potential -- particularly as pass rushers -- but they must refine their positional skills in order for the defense to improve this fall.
Strength in numbers: James DeLoach was penciled in as a starter last year until Floyd came along and stole his thunder. Nonetheless, the versatile outside linebacker offers a bit more bulk at the position (he's listed at 265 pounds) than the two starters. Rising senior Brandon Burrows is the only other veteran at the position, but he has never played much of a role in the Bulldogs' defensive scheme.
New on the scene: Five-star defensive end/OLB Lorenzo Carter is the name to know here. ESPN's No. 14 overall prospect became the crown jewel in a strong recruiting class when he signed with the Bulldogs last week on national signing day. The Under Armour All-American is still raw, but he possesses size and freak athleticism that should help him make it on the field early in his career. In addition, ESPN 300 defensive end/OLB Keyon Brown looks like another versatile prospect who can contribute at either position depending on the situation. The Bulldogs will also have two redshirt freshmen enter the mix in Davin Bellamy and Shaun McGee.
“Really if you play hard, you’ll end up making a play,” the Georgia outside linebacker said after Tuesday’s practice.
It might not sound like much, but that playing style -- “I’m bringing speed all day, every day,” Floyd said -- has helped him become perhaps Georgia’s fastest-rising freshman during preseason practice. Other Bulldogs might play with a high motor, but Floyd’s consistent effort in practice has been enough for Georgia coach Mark Richt to single him out during a team gathering.
“His head’s still spinning learning stuff, but he’s really impressed me how hard he practices on a daily basis,” Richt said. “… He really stood out to me. He’s been standing out to me for a while.”
The pass-rush specialist quickly made an impression on teammates and coaches with his work at strongside linebacker, to the point that he could steal some playing time from expected starter James DeLoach. In fact, he almost seems to be a lock to contribute on scrimmage downs.
“Floyd’s going to be a good asset to us,” outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “I think he’ll play a good bit this year, a guy with his size and his frame. He’s quick off the ball and he’s really like his nickname, Flow, because he’s real smooth with his moves and stuff like that.”
Floyd might be the freshman who made the biggest impression in Georgia’s preseason practices, but he’s not the only member of that group. Here are a few others whose names consistently cropped up as impact freshmen in a highly informal poll of Georgia veterans.
Brendan Douglas, running back
Douglas might be the most pleasant preseason surprise on Georgia’s veteran offense.
“He’s just running people over. He hurdled a DB [a diving Shaq Wiggins] last week in the scrimmage. It was an unbelievable play,” senior quarterback Aaron Murray said. “Just a tough kid, and one of our best blocking running backs right now. He’s not afraid to stick his nose in there, I don’t care who it is, and knock them right under the chin. So it’s great to see him back there. He’s worked his tail off and he definitely deserves some playing time.”
Douglas has ceded the No. 3 tailback spot to fellow freshman J.J. Green for now after spraining the MCL in his left knee on Monday. But Richt said after Wednesday’s scrimmage that the injury would not require surgery and will not end Douglas’ season.
Reggie Carter, inside linebacker
Carter has continued his upward trajectory from spring practice this August, solidifying a spot behind veteran starters Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson as the season approaches.
Wilson recently said that Carter possesses the quickest hands among the Bulldogs’ inside linebackers and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said he has been the most consistent of the four freshmen who arrived in the most recent signing class.
“I’d have to say Reggie’s the guy that’s kind of stood out the most right now,” Grantham said.
Carter tied Herrera for second on the team with three tackles in Wednesday’s final preseason scrimmage -- one behind Wilson. But it seems evident that all three players will fill key roles on Grantham’s defense once the Clemson game arrives.
Shaq Wiggins and Brendan Langley, cornerbacks
These days, you rarely hear one of the freshman cornerbacks mentioned without the other’s name following shortly thereafter. But that’s a good thing, as both of them have emerged as consistent playmakers in the injury-depleted secondary.
They both intercepted passes in each of the last two team scrimmages -- with Wiggins returning one for a touchdown in Wednesday night’s practice game and Langley taking one to the house the previous week.
Although the freshman duo has no chance of taking junior cornerback Damian Swann’s job and will face heavy competition for playing time from sophomore Sheldon Dawson, their performances have impressed the coaches.
“I thought our young guys were challenged [in the second scrimmage] a little bit and made some plays,” Grantham said. “I see those guys getting better. Langley’s a guy that continues to improve. He’s a very conscientious guy.”
As for Wiggins, take his fellow freshman’s word concerning his play thus far in August.
“We all know he’s a feisty little dude,” Langley said. “He’s making plays almost every play. Like I said, he’s real feisty, he’s a great cover corner. He’s come up and making big plays in the running game, so you can’t really ask for more.”
Reggie Davis, wide receiver
If there was any question whether Davis might redshirt this season because of Georgia’s impressive depth at receiver, it seemed to be answered on Wednesday. He played with the regulars, not the scout team, and ranked among the team’s leading receivers with two catches for 29 yards.
“He might play a lot this year. He’s a speed demon,” Murray said of the former high school track star. “He’s I think the fastest guy in our receiving corps and we have some speed over there, and he’s worked his tail off to earn his position, learn the plays, has definitely opened a lot of eyes out there with what he’s able to do with his route-running ability.”
Georgia has multiple reliable options at receiver, including Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley. But Davis’ speed and consistent hands have apparently helped him win some playing time.
“In the next two years, he’s probably going to be one of the best players here. Hands down,” Mitchell said. “He wants to learn, he wants to get better. That’s where it starts.”
For the third time in two days, UGA announced on Tuesday that an outside linebacker -- this time freshman Leonard Floyd -- underwent surgery to repair an injured thumb. Floyd fractured the thumb in Monday’s practice, but should return to practice in a cast shortly.
“We’re hoping that everybody [returns] early next week,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
Georgia announced on Monday that sophomore James DeLoach -- the projected starting strongside linebacker -- and freshman Davin Bellamy both underwent thumb surgery that day. As with Floyd, both players should return to practice within a few days and work for an undetermined length of time with a cast covering their surgically-repaired hands, but be back in time for the Aug. 31 opener at Clemson.
Richt was unaware that all three linebackers had injured their left thumbs -- a seemingly freak occurrence for so many players at the same position in such a short period of time.
“But it is hand-to-hand combat,” Richt told a reporter after Tuesday’s evening practice. “You can strengthen just about everything in the world -- you can strengthen your grip a little bit, but I don’t know if you can strengthen your hand for if your thumb gets bent back or your hand gets cracked.”
Floyd, who signed with Georgia in 2012 and spent last season at Hargrave Military after failing to qualify, has been one of the freshman standouts so far in the Bulldogs’ preseason camp. The pass-rush specialist earned praise from coaches and teammates almost immediately once camp started, with Richt remarking that “you see big upside” from the freshman in his first post-practice comments of the preseason.
“He’s a really good player,” Richt said Tuesday.
Strongside linebacker Chase Vasser also missed Tuesday’s practice with a sprained left ankle, making the fifth-year senior one of a whopping 17 Georgia players listed on the day’s injury report.
Versatile sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons practiced with Georgia’s outside linebackers during the portion of Tuesday afternoon’s practice that was open to the media -- a move that Richt described as “a quick fix” because of the numerous injuries at strongside linebacker. Although Harvey-Clemons is expected to predominantly play safety and nickelback, Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has insisted for months that Harvey-Clemons -- who is suspended for the Clemson game for violating team rules -- will also see some time at outside linebacker.
“Part of it is just the sam linebacker position is depleted enough where we’ve had to figure out how we were going to line up, and that was part of it,” Richt said of Harvey-Clemons’ move. “The reason why he’s a natural for that position is that the nickel position or the star position they are very much alike in assignment.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt said DeLoach should be back for the Bulldogs' Aug. 31 opener at Clemson, though the sophomore will practice for some time with his hand covered by a cast when he returns in the next day or two.
"He knows enough of what to do that I don't think it will [set him back]," Richt said of DeLoach, who watched from the sidelines during Monday's morning practice while wearing a green non-contact jersey. "He can get all the mental reps, as well, so I think he'll be fine."
Freshman outside linebacker Davin Bellamy also sustained a left thumb injury -- a fracture -- during Sunday's practice and was slated for Monday surgery. Bellamy is expected to be healthy in time for the Clemson game, too.
"You've got a lot of hand-to-hand combat in there and your digits get pushed back sometimes and get damaged. So we're going to clean them up with the surgery and club them up to protect them," Richt said. "They'll be practicing relatively soon. You don't miss an awful lot off of that, and then we're hoping by the time the game rolls around, they'll have just about every finger and thumb free."
DeLoach and Bellamy are among a number of young Bulldogs defenders who are dealing with minor injuries early in camp. And that comes at an inopportune time as several of the newcomers are competing to fill holes created by 12 departed regulars from Georgia's 2012 defense.
Freshman cornerback Shaq Wiggins was impressive in the first few days of camp, but was sidelined Monday by a groin strain. Freshman safety Tray Matthews -- who claimed a first-team job in the spring -- practiced for the second straight day in a non-contact jersey on Monday after injuring his shoulder. And first-team cornerback Sheldon Dawson continues to practice through a knee injury he sustained in the spring.
"It's not good," Richt said. "But like I told them after practice, that's football. ... You take DeLoach and Bellamy, Davin's the one that's going to have a harder time missing those reps where a veteran missing a day or two won't kill him on a knowledge standpoint.
"But yeah, it is inconvenient for them not to be there and not to get reps. We just hope that they do a great job in meetings, and we do a lot of walkthroughs so most guys can walk and talk through assignments if they can't go full speed so they get as many mental reps as possible."
“Looking at what they’re doing there, he’s probably one of those defensive end-type guys, outside linebacker,” Hodges said. “Who knows how big he’s going to get? You don’t know what he’s going to look like in two years.”
A defense that lost 12 significant players will be a focal point well into the fall, and it was in our post-spring recaps. Let’s take a look at the defensive positions first:
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Returning players/stats: Jordan Jenkins, So. (Six starts in 2012, 31 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery); Chase Vasser, Sr. (Two starts, 19 tackles, four TFL, 1 FF); T.J. Stripling, Sr. (Eight tackles, one TFL, one sack, one FF); Brandon Burrows, Jr. (No tackles); Josh Dawson, So. (five tackles, 1.5 TFL); James DeLoach, So. (four tackles)
Newcomers: Davin Bellamy, Fr. (ESPN’s No. 299 overall prospect, No. 25 defensive end. Expected to enroll this summer); Leonard Floyd, Fr. (The four-star prospect had no position rating as a player from Hargrave Military Academy. Expected to enroll this summer); Shaun McGee (No. 43 DE. Expected to enroll this summer.)
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Heck, he wasn’t even the highest-rated player from tiny Jenkins County High School (enrollment of approximately 400) to sign with the Bulldogs that year. That honor went to defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor, who was ESPN’s No. 53 overall prospect. But DeLoach is on the verge of making an impact alongside the more heralded members of his crop of recruits.
2012 review: DeLoach drew consistent praise from defensive coordinator Todd Grantham starting in preseason camp, but the freshman barely made an impact on scrimmage downs. He played in 13 games and totaled just four tackles and two quarterback pressures in limited work.
2013 preview: With veteran pass rushers Jarvis Jones and Cornelius Washington out of the picture, DeLoach stands to figure more heavily in Grantham’s plans this fall. DeLoach was the starting strongside linebacker in the base 3-4 package during spring drills and will battle for that honor this fall.
Spring prospectus: By all accounts, it was a productive spring for DeLoach. With Chase Vasser still sidelined by his recovery from shoulder surgery, DeLoach got a long look at SAM linebacker and finished second on the starting defense with six tackles and a sack in the G-Day game. He’ll have to compete with Vasser and others once the team returns to the practice field in August, but DeLoach seemed to help his cause this spring.
Career potential: Georgia had no idea what it had on its hands when DeLoach signed with the Bulldogs, only that he had a future as a defensive player. He had played multiple positions on either side of the ball in high school and Georgia’s coaches thought he could become a defensive end, inside linebacker or outside linebacker depending on how his body filled out over time. DeLoach has found a home at SAM, although at his listed weight of 270 pounds, he can always slide down to end in certain situations. That versatility is going to make him a valuable player for Georgia over at least the next two seasons.
Jarvis Jones was of course the biggest story at pro day after the two-time All-American skipped the workouts at last month’s NFL combine -- and his day was a bit of a disappointment before a huge crowd of scouts and personnel execs. Nonetheless Jones, ranked fifth on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board, said it was a good day. He also further discussed going through the draft process and teams’ apparent concerns about his health and potential longevity in the pros.
We caught up with several of the 17 Bulldogs who participated in pro day and discussed how their preparations are progressing, including slimmed-down John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers, linebacker Alec Ogletree, defensive lineman Abry Jones and receiver Marlon Brown.
As for the current Bulldogs, today is a big day, as they will hold their first spring scrimmage at Sanford Stadium.
We updated the progress of rising sophomore outside linebacker James DeLoach earlier this week and also provided some practice updates from coaches and players after practices on Tuesday and Thursday, as well as a photo gallery from Tuesday’s practice.
Adam (Charlotte): What is your view on the post-Aaron Murray quarterback position battle? Brice Ramsey comes out very highly recruited but played in a pure running team and didn't really showcase his talents. Could the big bad SEC be too much for him?
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Cappy_88: Radi, give me a 2012 roster player (outside of Jordan Jenkins, Ray Drew, and Josh Harvey-Clemons) who you think will have a breakout year in 2013 and why?
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