Georgia set up a late-morning news conference Monday with football coach Mark Richt for the school to announce he had agreed to a three-year contract extension and for him to talk about the start of spring practice next week.
What wasn’t planned was Richt having to address the overnight arrest of senior cornerback Branden Smith, who was charged with possession of marijuana in Alabama during Georgia’s spring break.
“It’s very frustrating,” Richt said of the second player arrest this offseason. “Does it frustrate you? If you were the head ball coach you’d be frustrated. Yeah, I’m frustrated. The timing wasn’t very good, either.”
Richt, who is heading this week on vacation with his wife to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, added, “I’m not thrilled that I’m having to deal with it.”
Smith’s arrest triggers an automatic suspension of at least one game under athletic association policy, athletic director Greg McGarity said. The policy is for a suspension of 10 percent of a season, but the coach has the discretion whether that should be one or two games in football. The policy is more strict than most colleges, Richt said.
Smith’s arrest came after a routine traffic stop of a 2007 Dodge Charger at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday for following too closely and having no tag light, according to Henry County (Ala.) Sherrif William Maddox.
Smith was driving on Highway 431 in Abbeville, Ala, about 25 miles north of Dothan in the southeast corner of the state, but the report did not indicate who owns the car.
Also arrested and charged with possession of marijuana was Danze Woods. Both Smith and Woods are from Atlanta.
The officer could smell marijuana, and a “baseball size package of marijuana” was found in the car, according to Maddox.
“Branden unfortunately got himself in some trouble,” Richt said. “I did get a phone call this morning, but I don’t have all the details yet. We’re working on that.”
Smith, who started seven games and had two interceptions last season, spoke briefly with Richt, but “it wasn’t a very good connection,” Richt said, “so I didn’t really get as much information that I needed to get yet.”
Smith, 23, was in jail for less than three hours before bonding out for $2,000 at about 2:45 a.m., according to police. The marijuana charge is a misdemeanor.
Woods was arrested by a Henry County deputy on March 7 and charged with a felony count of marijuana possession. Because of the recent arrest, his bond was set at $3,000, according to the Henry County Sheriff’s Department.
Smith posted on his Twitter account Sunday night that he was headed to “PC” — a common nickname for Panama City, Fla.
Senior starting cornerback Sanders Commings is already suspended for the first two games of the season following his January arrest for domestic violence for striking a woman in downtown Athens. Former Georgia tight end Orson Charles was arrested last week in Athens on a DUI charge.
Georgia held a mandatory meeting with all of its current athletes at the Georgia Center the week before spring break.
“We talked about that in staff meeting this morning,” McGarity said. “‘Are there other things we can do to educate? We’re doing enough. Is it enough? Who knows?’ We’ve got 600 young men and women in our program. When someone steps outside the lines, then we have to self-evaluate. … At the end of the day, it comes down to accountability to student-athletes.”
Richt said his he talked to his players before spring break about staying out of trouble.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “We always do. We ought to video those just to make sure everybody knows we do that. Yeah, we do.”
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