ATHENS, Ga. — For the second time in as many weeks, Georgia coach Kirby Smart defended the culture of his program and said he and his staff have “complete control” of his players.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference ahead of the start of spring practice Tuesday, Smart was repeatedly asked about what his program was doing in the wake of a Jan. 15 car crash that killed offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy.
Police allege that LeCroy was racing an SUV driven by former Bulldogs defensive tackle Jalen Carter when LeCroy crashed. Police said LeCroy was driving 104 mph when the vehicle she was driving, an SUV rented by the Georgia athletics department for recruiting purposes, left the road and struck two power poles and several trees. According to police, LeCroy had a blood alcohol concentration of .197, about 2½ times the legal limit in Georgia.
“Absolutely, we’ve got complete control of our program and our kids in our program,” Smart said. “Do kids make mistakes? Yes, young student-athletes make mistakes. They do. It happens all across the country. It happens here. There’s no lack of control for our program.
“I think our kids will tell you we have an incredible culture here. We have a connective tissue that brings our team together. But our guys do make mistakes. That’s historically probably going to happen when you’re 18 to 22 years old. Our job as coaches is to prevent that from happening, and that starts with me. You do that by how you educate your players and how you discipline them, and we’ll continue to do that at a high standard.”
Willock, an offensive lineman from New Jersey, was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. He was sitting behind LeCroy and wasn’t wearing a seat belt. LeCroy was transported to a hospital by ambulance and died as a result of her injuries.
Former Georgia player Warren McClendon and another female staffer, Tory Bowles, were injured but survived.
Carter, who is considered a potential top-10 pick in April’s NFL draft, was arrested March 1. He faces misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing. Linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson, a Butkus Award finalist in 2022, was arrested last month on the same charges in a separate alleged racing incident on Jan. 10, the day after the Bulldogs defeated TCU to win their second straight national championship.
“I think our players are starting to acknowledge and understand that when you make mistakes, the decisions are costly,” Smart said. “They can cost you your life, and that’s not to be taken lightly. I think our guys understand that, and we’ll continue to educate them. We’ll continue to do all we can at the university to make sure they behave in the proper way.”
Smart told ESPN on March 3 that his program brought in officers from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and UGA Police Department to educate his players about the dangers of street racing.
“I’ve never been part of a program where [racing] was something you had to repeatedly address,” Smart said. “You have to do a great job of making sure your players understand the risks and dangers that are out there. With vehicles, especially nowadays that go really fast, we’ve got to be extremely careful.”