Josh Harvey-Clemons (25) works with strong safeties at Tuesday's practice.
ATHENS - Every day, by his own estimation, Josh Harvey-Clemons will see Georgia strength coach Joe Tereshinski, who will have one simple question: "Did you eat?"
Some days, the answer will not be what Tereshinski or the Georgia coaches want to hear, and Harvey-Clemons will pay for it with punishment laps.
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"They've really been on me," said Harvey-Clemons, who said the business of getting from class-to-class often leads to not getting enough meals. "If I don't eat, then they'll know about it, and then I have to run for it."
Harvey-Clemons' weight has been and will remain a closely-monitored situation, as the coaches continue to get one of their most athletic defensive players in an appropriate spot on the field.
The rising sophomore is slated to move between safety and outside linebacker. But at a wiry 6-foot-5 he seems pretty thin for an outside linebacker in the SEC: Harvey-Clemons said he's 218 pounds right now, and he would want to get to "at least 230". He came to campus last year at 207 pounds.
"I wouldn't say I need to put on weight," he said, before correcting himself: "I need to put on weight, but at the same time I can play at the weight I'm at. At the end of the day I really do need to put on a lot of weight. And it's coming. It's just not coming as fast as I would like it."
He blamed his metabolism for the slow weight gain. And he needs to add the pounds whether or not he ends up at safety or outside linebacker. He said he can play safety at 230 pounds, which sounds right given his frame. Shawn Williams, the strong safety the past few years, was listed at 6-1 and 220 pounds. Free safety Bacarri Rambo was 6-0 and 218.
Harvey-Clemons said he worked "a little bit" at outside linebacker before the spring, but has worked mainly at safety the first two spring practices. (He hasn't heard anything about inside linebacker, so that doesn't appear to be in the cards right now.)
"Wherever they put me at, I'm gonna do my hardest to learn the position and play it to the best of my ability, because I gotta be on the field this year, somewhere," Harvey-Clemons said.
He played sparingly as a freshman, relegated mostly to special teams. Recruited as an outside linebacker out of Lowndes High School, he shifted to safety once he arrived on campus, but was never a factor there.
Entering spring practice, Harvey-Clemons' position status loomed as one of the biggest question marks on the Georgia defense. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has talked about moving him from safety to outside linebacker on a week-to-week basis, based on what's needed against the opponent. Harvey-Clemons said he's comfortable with that, pointing out that Grantham has moved players around before.
"Whatever he needs me to do, or whatever this defense needs to be successful, I'm there," he said.
They have him at strong safety, which Harvey-Clemons says he likes because it puts him closer to the line of scrimmage. He feels like he's "closer to the action" than at free safety, which is more of a coverage-oriented spot.
"I feel like strong safety and outside linebacker, it kind of goes together a little bit," he said.
So how confident is he that he'll be out there against Clemson? Grantham has said Harvey-Clemons "will be out there somewhere," but the player himself isn't taking it as a guarantee yet. He just says he hopes that's the case.
"This spring, wherever they put me at, I'm trying my hardest, I'm trying to learn this defense, so I can be out there. Because I can't sit on that sideline another year, man," he said.
He said it with a smile.
Teammates have often mentioned that Harvey-Clemons is one of the most skilled players on the team. According to one of the few veteran starters returning in 2013, it's only a matter of how quickly Harvey-Clemons can pick up the playbook.
"Once he learns everything completely, he's gonna be a baller," inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. "Because every time they throw the ball his way he's around it."