Out of Control: Georgia Driving Charges Continue To Dominate Off-Field Narrative as Smael Mondon Arrested

    Once again, driving charges have hit the Georgia Bulldogs, leading to questions about Kirby Smart's off-field control -- or lack thereof -- of the program.

    In January 2023, Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock and staffer Chandler LeCroy tragically lost their lives in a car accident in which police said speeding and alcohol played a role. Over a year and a half later, the Bulldogs continue to show they haven’t learned their lesson.

    Georgia LB Smael Mondon, OL Bo Hughley Arrested on Reckless Driving Charges

    Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Bo Hughley, 19, was arrested on Tuesday night for failure to maintain lane/improper driving on the road and reckless driving. Just one night later, projected starting linebacker Smael Mondon Jr., 21, was booked for reckless driving and racing.

    Both players were released on bonds of $26 dollars, and their bookings bring Georgia’s driving-related arrests total to four this offseason.

    Florida transfer running back Trevor Etienne, 20, was arrested in March, just after he joined the Bulldogs, for multiple misdemeanors: DUI, reckless driving, failure to maintain lane/improper driving on the road, and affixing materials that reduce visibility of windows/windshield.

    On Wednesday, Etienne took a plea deal to dismiss charges of DUI less safe and DUI under 21, pleading no contest to the reckless driving charge, per Athens Banner-Herald’s Marc Weiszer.

    Then, in May, true freshman wide receiver Sacovie White was jailed for reckless driving and going the wrong way on a one-way road.

    However, driving-related charges have run rampant in Georgia’s program even closer to Willock and LeCroy’s deaths. In 2023, Bulldogs players, including LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson, DT Jalen Carter, WR Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, and WR De’Nylon Morrissette, were arrested or cited for speeding/reckless driving at least 14 times. Even player connection coordinator Jarvis Jones was arrested for reckless driving in September.

    Whenever such events occur, head coach Kirby Smart leans on his favorite form of punishment: in-house/internal discipline.

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    Following Etienne’s arrest, Smart said, “I first want to reiterate what I said about the kid last week, he’s a great kid from a great family, he’s done a tremendous job since he’s been here. As we all know, young people don’t always make great decisions. He’s embarrassed, he’s upset, it’s a teaching moment, and I hope he learns from it.”

    “He will be under the in-house discipline as well as the university discipline.”

    When speaking on Jones’ booking last season, he also went the internal route, stating, “It’s a personnel matter. I really can’t comment further on it.”

    Clearly, it’s not enough.

    During UGA’s athletic department spring meeting last year, athletic director Josh Brooks spoke on the program’s handling of the situations:

    “Just like you would as a parent, you want to look at every level you can pull. There are obviously disciplinary measures, there are educational measures. We’re going to look to intensify all of those efforts. I don’t think it’s just one thing you do. There’s discipline, there’s education, and I think there’s no shortage of things we’re going to keep doing to rectify this problem.”

    Following the deadly January 2023 crash, Smart told ESPN that players are “continually counseled on the dangers of driving recklessly and/or impaired.” Guest speakers, such as Donte Stallworth (who killed a pedestrian in Florida in 2009 while driving drunk), are brought in to talk to the team as well.

    “It wasn’t just because of some of the issues we’ve had, but we got [Stallworth] in here because over and above getting a DUI and all that entails, you can kill somebody,” Smart said. “I wanted our kids to hear it from somebody who had gone through something that terrible.”

    Georgia has not commented on Mondon or Hughley’s arrest yet, with Smart set to meet with reporters next Tuesday at SEC Media Days in Dallas.

    Young men making mistakes isn’t new, especially in college football. And with the roster turnover that occurs every year and NIL money flowing in, it isn’t easy to establish an off-field culture. Smart’s had no issue turning Georgia into a perennial national title contender, and when you’re winning, people tend to look the other way.

    KEEP READING: 2024 SEC Power Rankings

    However, as we saw with how Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy handled the Ollie Gordon situation, there’s clearly a morality deficit in the sport. Success means more than accountability, and as long as that stays true, there will be no change in Athens.

    College Football Network has you covered with the latest news and analysis, rankings, transfer portal information, top 10 returning players, the 2024 college football season schedule, and much more!

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