ATHENS – Mark Richt told this story Friday: There was a recruit last year who Georgia football coaches were interested in, before they became leery of some of his social media posts.
“We told him and his coach we don’t condone that. And he persisted, thinking we wouldn’t find out, and we found out and we cut him,” Richt said. “We rescinded that offer to him.”
Other times, Richt said, his staff will pass on a player who acts up during his visit to Athens. A current player will come to coaches and say: “He’s not going to make it around here.”
Richt says that such preventative measures are taken routinely by he and his staff during the recruiting process. But they haven’t prevented the Bulldogs from ending up with five different players who were arrested this year, and another who was dismissed because of repeated off-field issues.
Georgia began preseason practice Friday, a chance to change the conversation to football. But the first couple questions at Richt’s press conference were about the off-field issues, and the coach appeared eager to argue his case.
“The guys that misbehave have a discipline problem, and that’s why we discipline them. The rest of the guys don’t,” Richt said. “Some are still here and some aren’t. That’s just part of the consequences for not doing what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it. But the great majority of our guys are doing a great job and I’m really proud of them.”
Junior linebacker Jordan Jenkins said players met as a team – offense and defense – in recent days, emphasizing again the importance of good behavior. Of course the vast majority of issues have come on one side of the ball: defense.
No conclusion should be drawn from that, according to Jenkins. It shouldn’t reflect on the recruiting or stewardship of players under previous defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
“From the standpoint of coach Grantham not picking the right guys, there’s teams that have – I’m not picking any names in particular – there’s teams that are picking up guys who have done way worse things than here,” Jenkins said. “People who make that statement need to go check the other schools and who they’ve recruited, and who’s on their team now.”
That was a point Richt made a bit obliquely as well, defending the screening process his staff does in recruiting.
“The reality is, if you look at who we sign, they’ve got offers from five to 20 schools that we compete with,” Richt said.
The most recent Georgia player to run into trouble is Davin Bellamy, a redshirt freshman who was arrested on a DUI charge. Richt confirmed that Bellamy, an outside linebacker, is suspended the first two games of the season, which is automatic because of school policy. Richt could have made the punishment more severe, but he held up Bellamy as an example of the right kind of punishment, then took it to a larger point.
“Bellamy made a mistake that was stupid and he knows it. He’s remorseful. But he’s not a bad person,” Richt said. “I think if everybody’s really gut-level honest with themselves and they think about things they did in college that maybe they didn’t get caught doing, people do things they shouldn’t do. Grownups do it.”
Senior quarterback Hutson Mason also jumped to Bellamy’s defense.
"Some people may look at Davin Bellamy and think he's a punk or he's a thug, which, Davin will tell you first hand that he doesn't really care what anyone else thinks of him. He's more upset that he let his mom down, that he let his teammates down,” Mason said. “The thing that I was preaching was Davin made a mistake and he's got to deal with that, but it's our responsibility as leaders to say, you know what, Davin made a mistake, but I made a mistake also because I wasn't there for him, because Davin couldn't pick up the phone and say 'hey Hutson, I need a ride.'
“There has to be accountability; it's not just pointing fingers at somebody. You've got to pick up a brother and tell him you love him and tell him you're going to move on. You don't really abandon him."
Richt did not name the recruit Georgia rescinded the scholarship to because of social media. But the coach was asked, as his press conference ended, what kinds of things do they not like to see on social media?
“I’m not going to get into specifics, but anything that would offend my wife,” Richt said, laughing. “That’s probably a good start right there.”