In the University of Georgia’s most extensive comments on the car crash that killed football player Devin Willock and a recruiting staff member, athletic director Josh Brooks said Tuesday the two were not on athletic department business at the time of the incident, which occurred after the Bulldogs celebrated their second straight national title.
The incident, which occurred in the early morning hours of Jan. 15 not far from the school’s Athens campus, has raised questions about the relationship between athletes and those who work in the athletic department.
“Out of respect for the families involved, we have refrained from making any public statements up to this point regarding the circumstances of the tragic accident that claimed two lives and injured two members of our campus community,” Brooks said in a statement.
“However, we want the public to know that the athletic department is conducting a thorough review, in coordination with appropriate legal counsel, to fully understand the circumstances surrounding this tragic event. We want to emphasize that these individuals were not engaged in athletic department duties around the time of this incident.”
An SUV driven by 24-year-old Chandler LeCroy, who worked in the recruiting department, left the road on a turn, sliced through a pair of utility poles, struck two trees and finally came to rest against an apartment building.
The 20-year-old Willock was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead the scene. LeCroy died a short time later, after being taken to a nearby hospital.
McClendon, who had announced hours earlier he was entering the NFL draft, received a laceration to the middle of his head. The other university employee, Victoria Bowles, survived with serious injuries.
The crash occurred after a parade through Athens and a celebration at Sanford Stadium to honor Georgia’s 65-7 rout of TCU in the Jan. 9 national championship game.
The police report listed the owner of the 2021 Ford Explorer as EAN Holdings, which is the official name for the rental vehicle company that does business as Enterprise.
It was not clear who had rented the vehicle, though it is similar to those used by the university for recruiting visits.
Excessive speed on a road with a 40 mph limit was listed as a cause of the crash, along with other, unspecified factors. Police said they were still investigating.
Brooks said the university is cooperating with police and that it also would review its policies to determine if any changes should be made in the wake of the incident. He said football coach Kirby Smart was part of those discussions.
“Our review is preliminary at this time, and the athletic department is fully cooperating with law enforcement officials to determine all the facts surrounding this tragedy,” Brooks said. “Coach Smart and I are also actively reviewing relevant football policies, and at the conclusion of that review, we will take steps to implement any improvements in our policies and procedures that may be needed.”
Georgia’s Bennett arrested for public intoxication
Former Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, who led the Bulldogs to their second straight CFP National Championship earlier this month, was arrested on a misdemeanor public intoxication charge in Dallas on Sunday morning.
In a statement to ESPN, a Dallas Police Department spokesperson said officers responded to a report of a man banging on doors in the 1600 block of Tribeca Way at 7:10 a.m. ET on Sunday.
“The preliminary investigation found when officers arrived, they located the man, Stetson Bennett, 25, and determined he was intoxicated,” the police statement read. “Bennett was taken into custody, transported to the City Detention Center and charged with public intoxication.”
Bennett left the detention center Sunday morning, but he could not be reached for comment.
Bennett, who started his college career as a walk-on, was a Heisman Trophy finalist this past season, after leading the Bulldogs to a 15-0 record and SEC championship. He passed for 4,127 yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while rushing for another 10 scores.
Bennett was named the offensive MVP in both of Georgia’s victories in the CFP, a 42-41 comeback win against Ohio State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and a 65-7 rout of TCU in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T.
Bennett, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, is considered a potential selection in April’s NFL draft. He recently won the Manning Award, which is given to the top quarterback in the FBS by the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Sources: Ex-Buffs QB Shrout picks Arkansas St.
Shrout visited Arkansas State over the weekend and his commitment looms as a significant win for Butch Jones, who is entering his third season as Arkansas State’s head coach.
Shrout will graduate from Colorado this spring and plans to enroll at Arkansas State in May, according to sources. He has one year of eligibility remaining and potentially a second if he gets a medical redshirt after missing the entire 2021 season with a torn ACL.
Shrout most recently played at Colorado in 2022, where he threw for 1,220 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions and delivered the game-winning touchdown pass against Cal in overtime in Colorado’s lone victory of the season. He started seven games at Colorado and had one start during his three seasons at Tennessee (2018-2020).
Shrout is one of three Buffaloes quarterbacks who have entered the NCAA transfer portal since the school hired Deion Sanders as head coach. Sanders has made it clear that his son, Shedeur, will be the starter next season. He introduced him at his opening news conference by saying, “This is your quarterback.”
According to sources, Shrout was attracted to the potential opportunity at Arkansas State, including playing in offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf’s West Coast-style offense. Shrout also had some teammates at Tennessee who played for Jones, and sources said the former teammates endorsed Jones both as a person and a coach.
Arkansas State (3-9) ranked No. 118 in total offense last season and No. 85 in scoring offense. The Red Wolves open the 2023 season at Oklahoma on Sept. 2.
Sources: Harbaugh, Broncos meet but no deal
Broncos owner Greg Penner and University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh met last week in Ann Arbor to discuss Denver’s head-coaching position without any deal materializing, league sources told ESPN.
Although Harbaugh two weeks ago announced he was staying at Michigan, Penner did his due diligence and still traveled to Ann Arbor to meet with the coach in person, like he’s done with seven other candidates during the Broncos’ head-coaching search.
The follow-up conversations were part of the process for both Denver — led by Penner with general manager George Paton — and Harbaugh. The face-to-face meeting came after Harbaugh’s initial video interview with Denver, after which he pulled his name out of contention and reaffirmed his commitment to Michigan.
“I love the relationships that I have at Michigan — coaches, staff, families, administration, president Santa Ono and especially the players and their families,” Harbaugh said in his statement Jan. 16. “My heart is at the University of Michigan. I once heard a wise man say, ‘Don’t try to out-happy, happy.’ Go Blue!”
The Broncos moved on as well, continuing their discussions with several other candidates. Denver has interviewed former Saints coach Sean Payton, former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell, former Stanford coach David Shaw, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and their own defensive coordinator, Ejiro Evero.
Harbaugh now has met with the Vikings and Broncos in back-to-back years. While one source wondered how many more chances Harbaugh would get, another league source said “The league is likely to be interested in Jim as long as he is successfully coaching. He’s proven at every level including the NFL. That’s a hard resume to match.”
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