UGA’s football success marred by off-the-field issues
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - – Late Wednesday evening, Georgia star defensive lineman Jalen Carter turned himself in at the Athens-Clarke County Jail.
He’s facing misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and street racing in connection to a deadly crash in Athens on January 15.
Former Georgia football player Devin Willock, 20, and staff member Chandler LeCroy died as a result of that crash.
Carter’s arrest was the fourth to a Georgia football player since UGA won its second-straight national championship in early January.
Jan. 10, the day after the title game, police said linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson was street racing in Athens.
In late February, Dumas-Johnson was arrested and charged with reckless driving and street racing.
Jan. 23, Georgia transfer wide receiver RaRa Thomas was arrested in Athens after a domestic violence incident.
He was charged with misdemeanor family battery and felony false imprisonment.
And on Jan. 29, standout quarterback Stetson Bennett was arrested in Dallas, Texas and charged with public intoxication.
In Indianapolis this week at the NFL Combine, former Bulldogs were asked about these recent arrests.
Kicker Jack Podlesny denied that there is a culture problem within the program.
“I don’t think so,” said Podlesney during media availability. “I can speak on those guys’ character. And those guys’ character to me is they’re the best person in the room. They’ve always been a great guy to me, they’ve always been a nice guy to me. They’ve always treated me with respect. And that’s what I can speak on. And I think Georgia football is trying to keep that going, keep the generations growing,” Podlesny said.
Defensive back Christopher Smith was asked a similar line of questioning and shook off questions directly about Jalen Carter.
“No comment. Like I said, I’m praying for him and everybody involved in that situation that he’s in right now. Like I said, I’m praying for him,” said Smith.
Mike Griffith, a writer for Dawgnation.com, said he believes these are isolated incidences and the off-the-field challenges at UGA are not unique to the university.
“The spotlight is on Georgia right now and when these things happen, they’re going to be magnified,” said Griffith, who is covering the NFL Combine this week in Indianapolis. “They’re going to be questioned and Kirby Smart and his staff have to look inwardly and review how they do things,” Griffith said.
Kirby Smart has not made any in-person public addresses after any of these recent arrests.
On Wednesday, he issued a statement online.
“The charges announced today are deeply concerning, especially as we are still struggling to cope with the devastating loss of two beloved members of our community. We will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities while supporting these families and assessing what we can learn from this horrible tragedy.”
On campus in Athens, some students said they wished the program would act with more integrity.
“It’s like as long as they show up on game day and we get a win, it doesn’t matter what they do,” said freshman Caroline Newbern.
She said the news of Jalen Carter has been a hot topic on campus this week.
“There seems to be a lack of integrity and consideration for how it might influence the larger institution,” Newbern continued.
Atlanta News First reached out to the football program for an interview with Kirby Smart. We have not received a response.
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