Tailback Washaun Ealey, the Bulldogs’ leading rusher last season, was suspended for what the team said was a minimum of one game after being arrested on three misdemeanor charges stemming from a hit-and-run.
Ealey, a sophomore from Stillmore, was arrested at 5:19 a.m. by UGA police. He was freed on bond six hours later, then sat out Georgia’s afternoon practice.
“I didn’t really feel like talking to him, quite frankly,” said head coach Mark Richt, who nonetheless did, to inform him of the suspension.
Richt said the length of Ealey’s time out would depend on “how he reacts” to the situation, as well as some internal discipline.
“And if he handles them the way he should, and behaves between now and the next one, he’ll have a pretty good chance of playing,” Richt said. “But he’s gotta show me that he deserves to go back and not only play but practice with the team.”
Richt also spoke with incoming athletics director Greg McGarity, who was seen at the Butts-Mere building on Friday. McGarity’s first day on the job is Wednesday.
“There wasn’t any problem coming to the right conclusion because we think this is the right conclusion,” Richt said.
Ealey was picked up originally on charges of leaving the scene after hitting a car, and having a suspended license. He was then held at Clarke County jail after a bench warrant was discovered.
The bench warrant was from Clarke County municipal court, for failure to appear in court after a previous traffic stop. Ealey was cited for speeding and not having registration while driving a 2004 Cadillac, according to records.
Richt said he was furious because Ealey had been told by Georgia coaches not to drive because of the license suspension. It wasn’t clear if the staff or Ealey knew of the bench warrant.
“It was foolish. He knew better,” Richt said. “But no one thinks it’s gonna happen to them. But he knew his license was suspended. We knew his license was suspended. Matter of fact we spent a lot of hours checking on every single player and making sure their licenses were up to date. And if they’re not, making them aware of that, and letting them know they cannot drive.”
Ealey is the eighth Georgia player to be arrested in 2010. All were misdemeanors, but several were for multiple charges. Three were kicked off the team, including quarterback Zach Mettenberger, while backup tailback Dontavius Jackson transferred after being suspended six games.
Receiver Tavarres King is suspended for at least the opener after being charged with possession of alcohol in July. The other current members of the team to be arrested are reserves: cornerback Jordan Love (obstruction) and walk-on offensive lineman Josh Parrish (underage alcohol possession, false ID).
It also follows the high-profile arrest of then-athletics director Damon Evans on June 30. Evans was arrested in Atlanta on charges of driving under the influence, and embarrassing details in the police report led to his forced resignation.
“I think that it definitely tarnishes our image, but at the same time I don’t think that we have any bad seeds on this team,” junior tight end Aron White said. “We just have guys that have made silly mistakes for the most part and done things that they knew better. I don’t think we have any guys that are just bad to the core, did things intentionally to hurt people or anything like that.”
Ealey had 717 rushing yards last season, and scored three touchdowns. He was expected to share carries this year with junior Caleb King, who on Thursday was named the tentative starter by running backs coach Bryan McClendon.
Jimmy Williamson, the police chief at the University of Georgia, said Ealey was driving a vehicle when at 3:19 a.m. it struck a parked vehicle in the East Parking Deck. It was witnessed by parking service employees, according to Williamson, and Ealey left the scene when confronted.
Police officers arrived and tracked the car to an Athens residence, and the person who answered the door said his roommate (Ealey) had been driving the car. At that point it was also determined that Ealey had been driving on a suspended license.
While at Clarke County jail, the bench warrant was discovered. He posted a total bond of $3,480 and was released at 11:19 a.m.
Richt said the team monitors its players’ drivers’ license situation, getting copies of the licenses and checking to see if they’re up to date. They also ask players to tell them if they get a ticket so they can help make sure they pay it or show up for a court date.
"We do stay on top of it,” Richt said. “There are some that fall through the cracks at times. But this one didn’t. He was well aware, we were well aware, everybody knew. He thought take a short little trip. But it got him.”