Just about everything was going so smoothly for Georgia on national signing day.
A photo of the national letter of intent given to Lowndes linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons shows he's still waiting on his legal guardian's signature.
Josh Harvey-Clemons, a top-40 national prospect, got things off to a rousing start by revealing on national television that he would become a Bulldog.
The faxes rolled off the machine in the football office, the Bulldogs surged in the recruiting rankings, but as 18 national letters of intents were in by midday, there was nothing from Harvey-Clemons, the playmaking outside linebacker from Lowndes High in Valdosta.
Georgia was still waiting Wednesday night on Harvey-Clemons to join a class that already includes six top-75 prospects: offensive tackle John Theus from Florida, running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall from North Carolina, outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins from Henry County and defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor from Jenkins County.
It was the kind of storyline that coach Mark Richt could do without to wrap up a recruiting class.
“I quite frankly would like to have no buzz on signing day,” Richt said. “I’d like it to be the boringest day there is.”
There were signs something was amiss a couple of hours after the 9:15 a.m. announcement and after Richt spoke glowingly about Harvey-Clemons on ESPNU’s signing show.
He showed up about 45 minutes later than expected to address the fans in the Butts-Mehre Building.
When Richt was asked about Harvey-Clemons at his 1 p.m. news conference, he was forced to give short answers or sidestep them.
Asked afterwards if he was concerned that Harvey-Clemons’ letter of intent had not arrived, Richt tried to put the best face on the situation.
“No, not at all,” he said. “Not at all.”
For a letter of intent to be certified, a legal guardian or parent must also sign.
Woodrow Clemons, Josh’s grandfather, would not sign the Georgia letter of intent. Woodrow Clemons was nowhere to be found on Wednesday evening, according to Josh’s uncle Roy Hart.
Hart said that Harvey-Clemons was “upbeat and standing by his commitment” to Georgia.
Valdosta is about 245 miles from Athens, but it’s 113 to Gainesville, Fla., where he would be closer to family if he went to Florida.
Woodrow Clemons and Lowdes coach Randy McPherson did not return phone messages left for them.
“I am 100 percent Georgia,” Harvey-Clemons told ESPN.com Monday afternoon. “I just have to finish my paperwork and send it in. It might be tonight or tomorrow.”
Harvey-Clemons put on a Georgia ‘G’ cap at his announcement in Valdosta after his sister Ashley unveiled a red Georgia T-shirt underneath a sweatshirt.
“We were extremely excited by that announcement I can promise you,” Richt said at the news conference.
Earlier, Richt told ESPNU: “He’s so versatile. The guy can play inside linebacker, outside linebacker, he can rush the passer. He can play in coverage and quite frankly he’s a heck of a wide receiver, too. He’s a guy, in the red zone, we may need to use his talents inside the 20-yard line because he’s got such great leaping ability and strong hands.”
Those comments may be a secondary violation since his letter of intent was not already sent.
The focus may have been on the player that wasn’t on board yet, but Georgia likes what it has from the players that are officially in the fold.
“We’re extremely excited about this class,” recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner said. “We’re excited about the young men that committed to be our future. I think the Bulldog Nation will be excited about them, too.”
Marshall, already on campus, and Gurley will give Georgia more competition at tailback this season to Isaiah Crowell.
“These guys are special backs,” Richt said.
“I love the running back combination,” Rivals.com analyst Mike Farrell said. “You’re not going to find a better running back combination than those two guys. Marshall is a speed guy and can be a slot guy. Gurley is the straight-up guy who can run outside, inside, whatever you need.
By Wednesday evening, Rivals.com ranked Georgia’s class at No. 19, Scout.com had Georgia No. 13 and ESPN.com put the Bulldogs at No. 5. Rivals doesn’t take into account Harvey-Clemons in its ranking, but the other two do.
Georgia landed Tucker outside linebacker and former Vanderbilt commitment Josh Dawson, but lost out on Palm Beach Gardens offensive lineman Avery Young, who signed with Auburn.
“Some services have us really high and some don’t have us quite as high,” Richt told fans at Butts-Mehre. “I don’t really get too caught up in all that, but I can tell you, the reason I’m making this point, is we’ve got some really quality football players that are going to help us win. We’ve got some guys that I think can come in and make an impact right away.”
Punter Collin Barber and kicker Marshall Morgan fit in that category because Georgia lost punter Drew Butler and place-kicker Blair Walsh, a combo the past four seasons.
“One thing that was very key to us is we had to find a punter, we had to find a kicker,” Richt said. “We were like ‘We’ve got to get the best in the country, we’ve got to get the very best.’ We feel like we did that.”
Georgia may still officially land one of the best outside linebackers in Harvey-Clemons — players have until April 1 to sign.
—Special correspondent Ed Hooper contributed to this report from Valdosta.