Per a recent report by Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham hinted at Josh Harvey-Clemons lining up at outside linebacker when the Bulldogs open spring practice on March 2nd. Despite the fact that I initially projected JHC as a surer shot at free safety when I made my modest attempt at forecasting what the 2013 Dawgs might look like, I like JHC at OLB, too.
The former five-star recruit out of Valdosta primarily played on special teams for the Dawgs in his freshman season, but saw some early action at safety in 2012 due to depth concerns in the secondary. JHC contributed sparingly at linebacker later in the season when the Dawgs endured a double dose of triple-option offenses in Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. I figured he would continue to develop in the backfield since the cupboard is a little more stocked in the LB corps, but Coach Grantham sees something in his style of play that indicates he will be most successful at OLB. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am a sports blogger and not an NCAA defensive coordinator.
JHC having the skill set to play more than one position is a good problem to have. Like so many versatile Dawgs before him, he gives his coaches the option to line him up at the position at which he is most able to help the team win. If that means adding a few more letters and a backslash by his name on the roster, then so be it, but I'd rather see him focus on one position with the ability to shift to the other in times of need.
Why should JHC play linebacker? With JHC now likely lining up opposite Jordan Jenkins, this provides even more quality depth on the outside as Josh Dawson, James DeLoach, Leonard Floyd, TJ Stripling and Chase Vasser almost guarantee to figure into the equation, as well. Incoming freshman Davin Bellamy could also be on track to get some playing time at OLB as a true freshman, too, unless he opts for a redshirt year to put on the weight needed to be an SEC-ready defensive lineman.
Why should JHC play safety? Immediate playing time seems a little easier to come across at safety with Corey Moore (SS) and Connor Norman (FS) the only returning starters with any significant SEC experience under their belts. At 6'5" 207 lbs., JHC would be a formidable jump-ball opponent for the plethora of towering receivers the Dawgs face on an almost weekly basis. But the coaches did an outstanding job recruiting DBs and since JHC's experience at safety last season was anything but extensive, I see no reason why this should bind him to the position.
One of the more rewarding aspects of having a player like JHC on the roster is if things don't necessarily work out for him at OLB, he can always head back to the secondary. However, JHC, one of the most dynamic athletes on the roster who says he "just wants to be on the field," will be a tremendous asset at OLB if that's where the coaches feel he belongs, especially if he adds a little more muscle mass before the season opener in Death Valley. With the skill set of both a safety and a linebacker, JHC should provide a similar element of speed to the Georgia front seven as former safety-turned-linebacker Alec Ogletree, who flourished in Coach Grantham's scheme, racking up obscene amounts of tackles and stalking opposing running backs from sideline to sideline.
Where to play JHC makes for quite the quandary, but thankfully, that is a problem more suited for the Georgia coaching staff. As little more than a humble fan with a computer, I prefer to look at this conundrum as a blessing. The more ways a player can help the team, the better.
What do you think? Where do you see Harvey-Clemons best contributing this season?