ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia coach Mark Richt refused to comment Thursday on reports that All-American safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree will be suspended to start the season after failing drug tests.
Before Richt entered Thursday’s post-practice press conference, UGA sports information assistants distributed a statement from Richt saying that, “There is a process we follow regarding team guidelines and policies. I cannot make any comment until that process has run its course.”
Richt referred to that statement as soon as he entered the room and answered questions related to possible suspensions in only the vaguest possible terms.
He refused to even confirm that Georgia players have suspensions pending.
“I can’t confirm anything,” Richt said. “I’m just going to be waiting for us to go through our process and then when there’s something to report, I’ll report it to everybody.”
Alan Ingram, Rambo’s coach at Seminole County High School in Donalsonville, Ga., confirmed to DawgNation on Thursday that Rambo failed a drug test and could face a four-game suspension because it was his second drug-related offense at UGA.
Ingram said Rambo claims he unknowingly ate brownies laced with marijuana on spring break, leading to his testing positive for drug use in a random screening when he returned to campus.
Rambo, who is reportedly mulling an appeal if he receives a four-game suspension, practiced alongside Ogletree with the Bulldogs’ first-team defense on Thursday.
Until the case -- and any potential appeal -- is resolved, Georgia officials are unlikely to comment on the record.
Echoing Richt’s position, sports information director Claude Felton and athletic director Greg McGarity refused to comment on the suspension reports.
“We’ve got our guidelines and our policies and certain things we have to do when we’re taking care of business and that’s what we’re talking about,” Richt said.
Wednesday’s suspension headlines are the most recent bad news from a 10-week period that Richt would likely prefer to forget.
Rising senior Sanders Commings was arrested on Jan. 21 following a domestic incident in downtown Athens -- an arrest that led to the starting cornerback being suspended for Georgia’s first two games, versus Buffalo and at high-scoring SEC newcomer Missouri.
Former Bulldogs tight end Orson Charles was booked on DUI charges on March 9, only a few days after working out before NFL scouts at Georgia’s pro day.
And rising senior cornerback Branden Smith was arrested on March 11 for marijuana possession, although Georgia has not yet announced any punishment for that spring break arrest.
Now more prominent Bulldogs players have apparently brought the wrong kind of attention to a team many college football analysts predicted would start the season ranked in the top 10.
“I’ll just say that I’m not thrilled when things like that happen,” Richt said of the recent distractions. “I can say that.”
Although Ogletree is one of the most highly regarded talents on Georgia’s defense -- which was expected to return nine starters after ranking fifth in the nation in total defense last season -- the Bulldogs can more easily absorb a depth hit at linebacker.
It might be the deepest position on Georgia’s roster, with every significant linebacker from last season returning, plus several highly regarded freshmen set to join the team this summer.
The secondary is another issue altogether.
With Commings and likely Smith already out at the start of the season, Rambo could potentially become the third starting defensive back who will miss time. Richt’s staff moved SEC All-Freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell to cornerback for the spring to help alleviate serious depth concerns at that position, but the Bulldogs also have few proven options at safety.
Rising senior strong safety Shawn Williams led the Bulldogs with 72 tackles last season and mulled early entry into the NFL draft before opting to return. He, Rambo and utility man Commings played nearly all of the significant downs at safety in 2011, however.
Richt said rising sophomore Corey Moore is the reserve safety who is best prepared to play an increased role if necessary, although he noted that walk-on Connor Norman is “going to throw his hat in the ring” and that rising sophomores Quintavius Harrow and Marc Deas are “getting there.”
“They’re all in there competing, but I’d say Corey right now, he looks more the part right this minute,” Richt said.