Georgia will be short-handed at cornerback, wide receiver and on the offensive line for at least the first two games of the 2003 season after five players were among six student-athletes arrested on drug possession charges Tuesday.
Cornerbacks Tim Jennings and DeMario Minter, receivers Mario Raley and Bryan McClendon and offensive lineman Randall Swoopes were arrested and face misdemeanor charges of drug possession. A sixth Georgia freshman, basketball player Wayne Arnold, also was arrested.
The six were released on bail from Athens-Clarke County jail Tuesday afternoon.
The charges were the result of an incident that brought University of Georgia police to McWhorter Hall on campus last Thursday.
The five football players face suspensions, community service and disciplinary punishment and must submit to counseling. New basketball coach Dennis Felton was out of town Tuesday and will take action after talking with Arnold.
Georgia football coach Mark Richt announced the five football players will be suspended for at least the first two games of the season.
Jennings performed so well in spring practice that he was proclaimed a starter by defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. Minter was projected to be a top backup who may have been a starter in formations which require extra defensive backs.
Swoopes, who was redshirted in the 2002 season, spent most of the spring on the first-string offensive line and was expected to compete for the top job at center. Swoopes' suspension may be the most costly, as Georgia has to replace seven seniors - including each of the five starters - from its 2002 offensive line.
Raley and McClendon each played as true freshmen and were expected to open the season as top backups.
"Obviously, I'm very disappointed in this situation and the players involved,'' Richt said in a statement released by Georgia.
"But we have certain standards that everyone is going to adhere to as both a football player and a student of this university.''
Added Richt: "They will all pay a severe price and hopefully they will learn a very valuable lesson early that will make them better over the long haul.''
Arnold played a backup role as a true freshman on Coach Jim Harrick's basketball team, but Arnold did not finish the season with the team. Harrick removed Arnold from the team so the freshman could concentrate on academics.
Felton was out of town on a recruiting trip Tuesday and in a statement said he had not been able to talk with Arnold "but will do so when I return and determine the appropriate action to take.''
Felton said "I understand the seriousness of the charge. ... I would say that any behavior associated with substance abuse will not be tolerated in our program.''
Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley called the drug charges "very disappointing'' and said "we regard it as very serious.''
"We have a long history of being out front in substance abuse education and awareness programs and have been fortunate over the last 20 years with a minimum of problems in this area,'' Dooley said, referring to Georgia's substance abuse program that began in 1982.
Added Dooley: "However, we'll re-evaluate all areas of what we are doing and continue to make improvements in any aspect we think necessary.''