ATHENS - Josh Harvey-Clemons could be one of the keys to the Georgia defense in 2013, assuming the team figures out where he belongs. Safety, where he played as a freshman? Outside linebacker, where he played in high school? Inside linebacker, following the career track of the just-departed Alec Ogletree?
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham told me a few weeks ago that Harvey-Clemons "is one of the best players we have." So where he ends up playing has a domino effect on the personnel of the back eight positions on the defense.
Now, with spring practice beginning in just over a week, there are indications that Grantham is leaning towards Harvey-Clemons at outside linebacker.
During a Thursday segment on the Opening Drive, a morning show on WZGC 92.9-FM in Atlanta, Grantham was asked about potential breakout players on defense in 2013. Grantham went position by position, listing various players, at one point saying this:
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"At the outside backer position, obviously we started a true freshman last year, Jordan Jenkins. I think he'll continue that tradition of being a productive player outside. You know James Deloach and Josh Harvey-Clemons are guys that were special-teams guys last year that we'll see competing in there that I think can make some plays."
Deloach, also a freshman last year, played outside linebacker.
And here's what Grantham told ESPN.com's Chris Low earlier this week about Harvey-Clemons:
“He’s more of that guy who can walk out and cover a slot when they go to three wides,” Grantham said. “That’s why I wanted him to learn the nickel stuff last year, what we call the star. He learned all the underneath zones and what an outside linebacker has to do. So if he transitions back to outside linebacker, it will all be carry-over for him.”
Grantham did hedge it a bit there, and nothing is set until Grantham or head coach Mark Richt say so. And it's always possible they'll experiment with him at multiple positions during spring practice. After all, there are no real games until Aug. 31, so there still isn't a huge rush if they're not feeling confident about him at any particular position.
The key for Harvey-Clemons is putting on weight: At 6-foot-5 and a listed 208 pounds, he was too skinny for linebacker as a freshman. Harvey-Clemons said last season that he was struggling to put on weight, but he was trying.
Ogletree, who moved from safety to inside linebacker after his freshman year, was at about 235 pounds. Jordan Jenkins is listed at 257 pounds. But even if Harvey-Clemons hasn't put on a lot of weight yet, there's still time. And there's no exact minimum weight the coaches want for an outside linebacker, they just want him big enough not to be pushed away too easily by blockers.
"Now our job is to get him in the position where he can greatly affect the game," Grantham said on Feb. 6.
Harvey-Clemons at outside linebacker would leave the safety position - in need of two new starters - with Corey Moore, Tray Matthews, Connor Norman, Marc Deas and Quincy Mauger, at least in spring practice. More safeties are on the way once the rest of the signing class arrives this summer.