HOOVER, Ala. — Kirby Smart confirmed Tuesday morning that Jonathan Ledbetter will indeed be suspended to start the 2016 football season. But he declined to get into how many games the troubled sophomore defensive end will have to sit out.
Ledbetter was arrested for DUI this past Sunday, which was his second alcohol-related offense this year. He was previously suspended for one game after an underage consumption arrest in March.
Athletic association policy typically called for a two-game suspension for football players convicted of DUI and Smart indicated he’ll follow UGA guidelines.
“He’s going to be suspended,” Smart said before his first appearance in the main media room at The Wynfrey Hotel for SEC Football Media Days. “I’m not going to he into the details of it, but obviously per our policies he’ll be suspended.”
Ledbetter’s arrest was the seventh that Smart has had to deal with since March. It’s new ground for him after spending the last nine years in the background at Alabama while Nick Saban dealt with such matters.
“The unique thing is at the University of Alabama Nick always brought the issue to the staff and everybody helped in the decision-making process,” Smart said. “Ultimately he had to make the decision. That’s what that seat’s about. That seat has to make those hard calls, those hard decisions. That’s the unique part for me now. But the reaction to it, you understand that these young me are 18 to 21 years old. They’re going to make mistakes. We don’t accept them, we don’t like them, but they’re our babies and we have to help them.”
Smart confirmed that he has met with the team each time he has had to deal with a disciplinary and involves them in the process.
“I certainly think lessons can be learned from every one of those,” he said. “Every guy on the team should take those as an opportunity to learn. So you want to address it with the team as well and make sure the team understands where that player is currently, where he’s going and what’s happening with him and why it’s happening with them. ‘Cause they want justification a lot of times and they want to understand. So it’s important that you give that to them and give them closure when we have those issues.”
Georgia players accompanying Smart to Hoover Monday confirmed that discipline has been addressed at team meetings every time one of their teammates has gotten into trouble.
They kept the exact tone and messages of those meetings to themselves — “I think we’ll just keep that behind closed doors if you don’t mind,” tight end Jeb Blazevich said — but acknowledged that the general theme was that staying in line was a team issue and not just an individual one.
“Kids make mistakes, but that’s no excuse,” Blazevich said. “That’s no reason to say, ‘oh, it’s OK.’ I’m looking at what could I have done better to eliminate some of these things. That’s the approach I’m trying to take on it. How can I love these guys and get them back to where they need to be and how can I look back on myself and reflect personally on how I could have held them accountable?”