ATHENS, Ga. — The off-season purge of Georgia’s secondary continued on Tuesday.
Safety Tray Matthews, one of four players arrested on the eve of spring practice, was dismissed from the team. He became the fourth 2013 starting defensive back who won’t be in the the Bulldogs’ defensive plans for 2014.
“We are trying to make room for guys who want to do things right,” coach Mark Richt said in a statement announcing Matthews’ removal from the program.
Richt didn’t indicate if there was a last straw for Matthews that led to his decision.
Matthews, a rising sophomore from Newnan, tweeted Tuesday evening: “I’m sorry UGA family. I swear to God I love yal. I’m crying right now but I won’t forget. Love the dawgs. Auburn or Louisville will be my home.”
Reached by phone after the announcement, Matthews said: “I’m all right. I’m good.”
He said he couldn’t talk about what led to his dismissal and said more schools would be involved besides Auburn or Louisville.
“Those are the two top schools but there’s a lot more that I’m talking to,” he said.
It’s quite a freefall for Matthews, who created a buzz last year after enrolling early and making big hits in his first spring on campus, but he became the latest prized recruit to get booted.
Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons was dismissed in the winter after multiple suspensions and joined former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham at Louisville.
Cornerback Shaq Wiggins also transferred to Louisville and defensive back Brendan Langley moved to wide receiver.
Richt was asked about the state of his secondary under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt earlier Tuesday at the Peach State Pigskin Preview in Macon in light of the previous departures but didn’t mention Matthews.
“You know what? I think that we’re going to find four guys and five guys at a time if we’re in nickel that’ll play good,” Richt said. “Even a year ago I think Jeremy (Pruitt) started a couple of true freshmen. Two or three of them played a lot on that defense for Florida State last year. If guys come in and do it the way coach says, they have the athletic ability to do it. I think we’ll be fine.”
Wiggins tweeted Tuesday night: “my boy tray coming to da Ville wit me and day boy JHC. It’s gone get ugly.”
Langley tweeted: “good luck bro! Future is bright.”
Matthews, one of the highest-rated recruits in Georgia’s 2013 signing class, started six games last season, making 36 tackles with an interception and a forced fumble.
He missed time sidelined with a hamstring injury, something that Richt said kept him out of the spring game this year.
“He’s probably got to take some more ownership, too,” Richt said then. “He might need to spend a little more time with flexibility stuff in the off-season than maybe another guy might have to.”
Matthews could have been facing a suspension if he remained with the team.
Matthews was one of four players arrested for “double-dipping” Georgia-issued stipend checks. Receiver Uriah LeMay, also charged, reportedly is transferring to Charlotte. Defensive end James DeLoach and defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor remain with the team.