As a high school senior at Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes, Josh Harvey-Clemons had scholarship offers from so many schools that he could essentially take his pick from among the nation's best programs. A five-star prospect and rated among the top 50 prospects nationally, he eventually narrowed his list of favorites to Florida, Florida State, Louisville and Georgia.
The Bulldogs eventually won out, due in part to Harvey-Clemons desire to play safety. Due in part to his 6-foot-5 frame, he projected as a linebacker by college recruiters and scouting services alike – Scout.com listed as the No.3 outside linebacker in the nation. However, Harvey-Clemons enjoyed the freedom that playing the secondary provided and opted for then-Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's 3-4 defense.
He spent two years with the Bulldogs, starting 11 games as a sophomore, before transferring to Louisville prior to the 2014 season where he reunited with Grantham, who had Athens for the same position with the Cardinals. Due to NCAA transfer rules, he spent his first year as a Cardinal watching from the sidelines. Allowed to practice and study film, Harvey-Clemons could only watch as his new team fought through its first ACC schedule.
“It was a growing year for me,” he said. “A year for me to mature. A year for me to learn the defense better and get to my know my teammates and new surroundings.”
He watched as Gerod Holliman and James Sample put together seasons that elevated them into the NFL Draft a year prior to graduation. He could enjoy the big moments from the sideline, but not being on the field wasn't easy.
“Of course it was tough, but the guys kept me motivated and kept me in it,” he explained. “Being on the sidelines was hard.”
Now eligible to play, Harvey-Clemons' role has significantly increased. After solidifying himself as a one of the new starting safeties during spring practice, his focus during fall camp has been increasing the opportunities to become a disruptive presence.
“I can come off the edge like a pass-rusher, I can be in the box like a linebacker, or I can play against the slot receiver,” he explained.
At 6-foot-5, 230-pounds, Harvey-Clemons is going to be a match-up problem on nearly every snap, no matter where he is lined up.
“I try to use it to my advantage against shorter receivers and use my arm length to get out blocks,” he said.
He's also developed into one of the leaders on the defensive side of the ball. Having spent multiple years learning Grantham's defense and expectations, Harvey-Clemons says that he has “matured a lot” of the past year and is taking things “a lot more serious than I was at first.”
“I feel like I have to be a leader for one reason, I know the defense because I was already in the system,” he said. “From that point, I feel like I can help other guys. Teach them some things that I know and it'll help us all in the end.”
With the days until Louisville's season opener against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A kickoff bowl rapidly ticking away, Harvey-Clemons is becoming more and more anxious for his return to the field.
“It's very exciting,” he said. “It's getting closer and closer. That year went by a lot faster than I expected it to, but now that it's year I'm going to do everything in power to be as ready as I can.”