Tuesday afternoon brought some more unfortunate news for the Georgia Bulldogs, as safety Tray Matthews announced on Twitter that he would be transferring after head coach Mark Richt dismissed the sophomore following another off-the-field indiscretion.
Matthews announced the decision on Twitter:
Richt offered very little explanation in his released statement, which was a 14-word sentence that simply said, “We are trying to make room for guys who want to do things right.”
Matthews had a tumultuous tenure as a Georgia Bulldog, which included being one of four Georgia players arrested for theft by deception. The four Bulldogs attempted to cash UGA stipend checks online and then once again in a nearby store.
Matthews’ two apparent schools of choice–Auburn or Louisville–serve as a pair of schools familiar with taking in former Georgia standouts. Auburn currently boasts former Bulldogs defensive back Nick Marshall behind center, while Louisville has former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and players Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons.
A move to Auburn would keep Matthews in the SEC and allow him to battle for the chance to start on a Tigers defense that did not exactly set the woods on fire a season ago, while transferring to Louisville would provide great familiarity with the team’s defensive scheme.
The departure of Matthews makes six Georgia players who have now left the program prematurely during this particular offseason; the other individuals are Wiggins, Harvey-Clemons, quarterback Christian LeMay, wide receiver Uriah LeMay, and offensive tackle Mark Beard.
This recent string of transfers and dismissals has many people wondering if Richt, who is notorious for following his mentor Bobby Bowden’s “one more last chance” philosophy, has changed his tune going into his 14th season as a head coach. This theory is plausible, just as influence from new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt being a factor is.
In many of these cases, it may have very well boiled down to two factors: 1) Can I depend on this young man to change his ways? 2) Does his play on the football field warrant another opportunity?
Many of the players who find themselves no longer sporting the red and black came from a secondary that gave up plays like this and this in 2013, which leads me to believe that several players came up wanting in the second option. Richt is often lampooned as not having control of his program, but considering his recent stance on these players’ misbehaviors, the same voices who have laughed at his discipline tactics should applaud what has happened lately with the program.
The loss of Matthews puts another question mark on a secondary that was already on shaky ground even prior to the departure of Harvey-Clemons and Wiggins. With three defensive backs now out of the picture, Pruitt appears to be working with a clean slate on the back end of his 3-4 defense, which will feature cornerback Damian Swann and safety Corey Moore and may very well see two-way player Malcolm Mitchell play a great deal. Along with these three players, expect Pruitt’s recent additions of high school recruits Malkom Parrish (cornerback) and Shattle Fenteng (safety) to be given a chance to battle their way up the depth chart.
Matthews leaves Athens in a manner very similar to Harvey-Clemons, as both joined the program with great expectations, showed flashes of great play, but could not circumvent distractions that ultimately derailed their first football stop. Both players, along with the others that have pursued other options, may ultimately make a name for themselves in the game, but for Richt, it has become readily apparent that if football is not the reason why your name is in the papers, there’s a good chance that you may soon be on the chopping block.