As we preview the 2013 football season, we are counting down Georgia's 10 most important players. This is not a ranking of the team's best players, rather a look at the players who are most vital to the team's success. That takes into account the team's strengths and weaknesses, the depth at certain positions, and the importance of each position.
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6. Josh Harvey-Clemons
WHY HE’S VITAL: No other defensive player may have more impact on both the run and the pass. Todd Grantham tends to temper his praise publicly, but the defensive coordinator does seem excited about using Harvey-Clemons. The sophomore’s abilities are the linch-pin of this year’s defense: He’s the strong safety in the base 3-4 defense, and the nickel back in the 4-2-5 nickel defense. The latter will be what the defense figures to use the most, especially early in the season. During Grantham’s three previous seasons at Georgia, no player will be used the way he’s going to use Harvey-Clemons. On some downs he’ll be the deep man in coverage, on others he’ll rush the quarterback. There’s also a heavy emphasis on run defense at the line. And against Clemson, his pass coverage in the flats should also loom large.
QUOTABLE: “He’s a guy that moving forward towards the line of scrimmage that can cause plays and do some things, There’s certain guys on your team that you look for explosive plays out of, and I think he’s one of those guys.” - Grantham
BEST CASE: Harvey-Clemons carries over his play from the spring, when he was named Georgia’s defensive MVP. He seamlessly moves between the nickel back and safety roles, is among Georgia’s leaders in tackles, racks up a few sacks, forces four or five turnovers, and helps Georgia rank among the top five in the SEC in both pass and run defense.
WORST CASE: It takes at least a year for Harvey-Clemons to really find his way on defense. Remember, he hardly played last season. Now he’s going to play a role he’s unaccustomed to. It’s one thing to be comfortable in practice and scrimmages. It’s another to do so against Clemson and SEC teams. The rough adjustment means Grantham’s vision for Harvey-Clemons doesn’t really unfold, affecting the team against both the run and the pass.
FINAL WORD: The inexperience factor, the fact that Harvey-Clemons is essentially hasn’t played live-action on defense in two years, should be a concern. The calming fact for Georgia fans should be that while he was on scout-team last year, Harvey-Clemons was so good that offensive players and coaches urged the defensive coaches to play him. This year there’s no choice, he’ll play, and we find out just how good Harvey-Clemons can be.