Harvey-Clemons, Conley spring MVPs

ATHENS, Ga. -- He came into Georgia’s spring practice as one of the most talked-about players on the Bulldogs’ roster and leaves having validated that buzz.

But Josh Harvey-Clemons was still stunned when Georgia’s coaching staff last week named him as the team’s most valuable defensive player for the spring.

“I was shocked. I would have never guessed that,” said Harvey-Clemons, wearing a wide grin after his Black team rallied to beat the Red 23-17 in Saturday’s G-Day game.

The rising sophomore strong safety figured that Sheldon Dawson, who intercepted three passes before injuring his hamstring and missing G-Day, or early enrollee Tray Matthews, whom teammates lauded for his hard hits in practice, would win the award.

“But I thank God they did give it to me,” he laughed.

It was an easy choice, said defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, because of the varying ways that Harvey-Clemons can impact a game. He is the Bulldogs’ starting strong safety in the base 3-4 defense, but can shift to nickelback and outside linebacker in other packages, forcing opponents to account for his whereabouts.

“There’s certain guys on your team that you look for explosive plays out of and I think he’s going to be one of those guys,” Grantham said.

Harvey-Clemons and receiver Chris Conley won the team’s spring MVP awards, joining a list of accomplished players who earned that honor in the last few seasons. That includes quarterbacks Aaron Murray (twice) and Hutson Mason, tight end Orson Charles and lineman Cordy Glenn on the offensive side, while linebacker Jarvis Jones, nose guards John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers and linebacker Justin Houston have all won the defensive award.

“[I was surprised] a little bit because I know in the past couple years the people who’ve gotten that award,” Conley said. “That’s a great group to be in, to be associated with, and it also means the coaches trust you. It means that they trust you and they want to win games with you and that’s a huge blessing.”

According to the statistics that Georgia’s sports information staff shared following Georgia’s three spring scrimmages, Conley caught 11 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns -- including two grabs for 57 yards at G-Day -- in total. That knack to consistently produce is why Conley won the award, said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

“In the two scrimmages, he made the most plays. It comes down to making plays in gametime situations and those are the closest we can get to games,” Bobo said. “And I’m going to tell you another thing, he’s one of the toughest guys we’ve got on the field. He plays hard, he never wants to come out and he wants to be out there and he makes plays, so I wanted to reward him for that.”

Both players were clearly flattered by the attention, with Harvey-Clemons -- who played little as a true freshman after arriving last year as one of the nation’s most heavily recruited players in 2012 -- adding that “it gave me that extra boost of confidence that I needed.”

Meanwhile Conley, mirroring the compliment offered by his offensive coordinator, said it only places expectations upon him that he now must work to validate.

“It’s huge,” Conley said. “It’s been a blessing and now that means I’ve got to work that much harder and make even more plays. But I’m welcoming that.”