Josh Harvey-Clemons continues to evolve

ATHENS, Ga. -- Earlier this spring, Georgia linebacker Jordan Jenkins got a close, uncomfortable encounter with Josh Harvey-Clemons.

And he almost lost an arm in the process.

While barreling down on a running back during practice, Jenkins went to reach out and grab his target. Unfortunately, Harvey-Clemons, who was a prized recruit in the Bulldogs' 2012 recruiting class, was coming in too fast.

Just before Jenkins could snare the back, he jerked back in order to avoid the missile that was the tall, lanky Harvey-Clemons and watched the rising sophomore swoop in and snag his prey.

"He didn't even see me there. He almost took me out with him," Jenkins said with a laugh.

The play was chaotic, but it was Harvey-Clemons. He was a lost pup in Georgia's defense last year, but he's grown so much with everything that's been hurled his way. His 6-foot-5, 207-pound frame gives him great length, but his athleticism and speed make him a true weapon. What makes him that much more dangerous is the fact that he can play both linebacker and safety.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham wants to move him around in games this fall. He's more of a safety and will be the strong safety in Georgia's 3-4 base defense, but can slide to the hybrid safety/linebacker "star" spot or outside linebacker when the Dawgs go into nickel packages.

"He does a nice job of handling assignments at both [positions]," Grantham said. "He's a long, athletic guy; he's rangy. He has enough ability to cover not only tight ends and backs but he can cover wideouts, too.

"He's definitely a guy who will be in the [starting] 11."

Last year, Harvey-Clemons moved around a ton and even flirted with offense. He played in all 14 of Georgia's games last season, but registered just 14 tackles, including one for loss, and a pass breakup. While he didn't adapt as fast as he wanted, it's become clear that he's getting more and more comfortable on the field.

And it was obvious when he was named the team's most valuable defender for the spring.

"Last year, I was the guy who was out there lost and didn't really know anything," Harvey-Clemons said after Georgia's spring game. "Now that I'm on the field and learning, the game is slowing down to me. I was a guy who was used to being close to the ball, and I would run up when I would see a play-action and they would throw it over my head.

"Now I feel more comfortable on the field than I ever have, and I just want to keep building on that."

That comfort is very encouraging to Grantham, who wants to utilize Harvey-Clemons' impact skills similar to how he used All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones. He wants Harvey-Clemons to impact games. He wants him to blitz off the edge, drop back into coverage and eat up the run.

That's why Grantham is moving him around so much; to get Harvey-Clemons in every position to hurt opponents.

"We are asking a lot from him in what we ask him to do, but he's a guy that I think can affect the game," Grantham said. "You have to have certain guys on your team that are playmakers. ... Josh is another guy who can make those impact-type plays that you need defensive guys to make one-on-one."

Ask Georgia players about Harvey-Clemons and they usually respond with wide eyes and short phrases, especially those who have to face him head-on.

"That dude is a baller, man. He's an athlete," running back Todd Gurley said.

And soon the rest of the SEC will see.