You know those signs at workplaces, the ones that read, “X days without an accident?”
Maybe they need to fashion a similar one outside the University of Georgia football complex: “X days without losing a defensive player.”
It’s not funny, of course. And for head coach Mark Richt (and certainly defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt) it’s beyond frustrating.
The Bulldog defense was supposed to bring back 10 starters for the 2014 season, but those numbers have dropped by two and the depth chart isn’t as deep as it once was, either.
The latest loss came on Tuesday when Richt kicked sophomore Tray Matthews off the team. As a freshman Matthews had worked his way into the starting lineup at safety and was expected to challenge for a starting role again.
He was pink-slipped by Richt, who was uncharacteristically pointed in his statement announcing the dismissal.
Instead of the generic, “We wish him well in his future endeavors,” Richt said, “We are trying to make room for guys who want to do things right.”
But you have to figure at this point Richt is running out of patience.
Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, another impact player who was to be a key cog in the UGA resistance, was given the boot in February for “violation of team rules.”
And defensive back Shaq Wiggins decided last month he was leaving.
The common thread seems to be former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who now holds that post at Louisville.
Harvey-Clemons and Wiggins have already rejoined Grantham, while Matthews is considering both Louisville and Auburn.
Coaches tend to keep things close to the vest when it comes to how they operate.
What happens in practice stays in practice, if you will.
But by all indications Grantham had more of a laissez-faire approach to his players while Pruitt runs a tight ship.
Georgia’s new DC made it pretty clear from the outset things were going to be done a certain way — and apparently there are some players who balked.
Richt said when he introduced Pruitt back in January his new hire would give players “what they need, not what they want.”
“The thing about it is that the guys who are the best in the spring aren’t always the best in the fall,” Pruitt said. “So it’s who can do it over time. We’ve never arrived.”
Now two more defensive players are on thin ice.
James DeLoach and Jonathan Taylor, along with Matthews and receiver Uriah LeMay (who has also left the team) were accepted into a pretrial intervention program on Thursday.
The four were charged with illegal check cashing back in March.
UGA released a statement on Thursday saying that DeLoach and Taylor would not be suspended, but “have and will face significant additional internal discipline from both the UGA athletic association and the football program.”
We’ll likely never know exactly what the punishment is, but I’ll bet there will be stadium steps and throwing up involved.
So a depth chart that in January showed 10 defensive starters returning now lists just eight. That’s hardly a bare cupboard, but the unit has unquestionably taken a hit.
Harvey-Clemons, Wiggins and Matthews were part of 122 tackles and combined for four interceptions in 2013 — it’s not as though the Dawgs cut ties with three scout teamers.
But as of this morning, the imaginary sign at Georgia reads, “Four days without losing a defensive player.”
Richt and Pruitt can only hope that number doesn’t change in August.