The back-to-back National Champs have had one hell of a disastrous off-season.
Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart acknowledged on Tuesday that the problem of speeding among his team members has yet to be fully resolved, but he emphasized that he is actively seeking ways to address the issue.
Smart’s comments came in response to a recent incident involving freshman outside linebacker Samuel M’Pemba, who was ticketed for driving 88 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone, according to records from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office.
Just prior to that, Bulldogs receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint had appeared in court and pleaded guilty to driving 90 mph in a 45 mph zone.
This citation marked at least the 11th traffic-related moving violation involving Georgia football players and their cars since January 15, when a tragic accident occurred.
Offensive lineman Devin Willock and football staff member Chandler LeCroy were killed in a wreck allegedly caused by racing between LeCroy’s SUV and a car driven by former Bulldogs defensive tackle Jalen Carter.
The police reported that LeCroy’s SUV was traveling over 100 mph when it crashed into power poles and trees. Furthermore, it was revealed that LeCroy had a blood alcohol concentration of .197% at the time of the crash, well above the legal limit of .08 in Georgia.
“I’ll be the first to admit we haven’t solved that issue or problem,” Smart told reporters during a news conference. “I don’t honestly know that anybody has, but certainly for us, it’s important to acknowledge it first.”
“We’ve had a lot of intervention in terms of talking and visiting, and discipline measures have been implemented in terms of education. We’ll continue to do that.”
Earlier in March, Smart had spoken to ESPN about the steps he had taken to educate his players about the dangers of racing and driving fast. He had sought assistance from officers of the Athens-Clarke County Police, University of Georgia Police, and the Georgia State Patrol for this purpose.
However, he admitted that managing the situation becomes challenging given the age group of his players, with many of them being between 18 and 22 years old and driving for the first time.
Smart stated, “It’s one of the things that we want to manage, but it is a tough situation to manage when you have 18-to-22 year old men [and] a lot of them are driving for the first time. You know, every fall we have 25 new guys. We’ve averaged five guys that come here at 18 years old with no driver’s license, and we continue to work on that. I don’t have the exact answer. I wish I did, but we continue to work at it.”
The coach emphasized that his program has taken steps to educate players about the vehicles they drive, aiming for a “deeper level” of understanding.
The recent incidents involved M’Pemba driving a 2020 Dodge Durango and Rosemy-Jacksaint operating a Dodge Charger while “weaving through traffic at a high rate of speed,” according to the police.
Jalen Carter, who was driving a 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk at the time of the accident, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing. He received a sentence of 12 months of probation, a $1,000 fine, 80 hours of community service, and will be required to attend a state-approved defensive driving course.
Carter was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the NFL draft in April.
The introduction of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) policies has provided players with increased financial opportunities, which Smart believes may contribute to some acquiring faster cars.
He expressed concern not only about the number of speeding tickets but also the high speeds at which these violations occur, as the Georgia State Patrol has informed the team that high speeds are linked to more severe accidents.
Internal disciplinary actions have been taken against players who received speeding citations, and the coaching staff has consistently reminded the team about the importance of safe driving.
As the players returned to campus after the July Fourth holiday, coaches texted them, urging caution and safe travel.
“I wish that we could prevent speeding issues and learn from a horrific and tragic event,” Smart said. “I’m still wrestling with that, and we talk about it as a staff and all the things we can do.”
“We’ve got issues with traffic citations and speeding issues that we have to improve on. We have to get better at those, and I’m constantly looking and searching for that.”
What is your take on this seemingly never-ending problem at Georgia?
You would think the fatal street-racing crash following the National Championship would have been a massive wake-up call for everyone – but apparently not.
Yes, he’s an elite football coach – but does Kirby have a firm grip on his program and players?