Louisville safety Josh Harvey-Clemons was a highly touted five-star high school recruit out of Georgia who spurned perennial powerhouse programs like Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Florida to stay home and play for the Georgia Bulldogs.
After spending two seasons in Athens, during which he started 11 games as a sophomore, Harvey-Clemons ran into some off-field issues and the team eventually dismissed him for various rules violations.
Harvey-Clemons would get another chance at a major FBS program when Louisville gave him an opportunity to rejuvenate his promising career. Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who had held the same position at Georgia, was pivotal in the recruitment of Harvey-Clemons to the Bulldogs. So when Grantham called again, Harvey-Clemens jumped at the opportunity to reunite with his former coach.
After sitting out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules Harvey-Clemons’ first season as a Cardinal was last year. He started all 13 games in the secondary, finishing with 88 tackles, three interceptions and a sack. Harvey-Clemons recorded eight games with six or more tackles playing multiple positions, including safety, linebacker and even slot corner, on the Cardinals defense, earning him All-ACC Honorable Mention.
Harvey-Clemons is a prospect you notice immediately on tape as you see his lanky 6-foot-5 frame come downhill and attack ball carriers and drop back into coverage. He possesses long arms and legs and is able to make up ground quickly with long strides.
He plays with surprisingly good balance for such a tall player and demonstrates the ability to change directions while on the move. He will come up and pop ball carriers. He is a sure tackler, who will square up his shoulders towards his target and wrap up their legs. Harvey-Clemons is definitely comfortable playing up near the line of scrimmage and inside the tackle box, displaying a knack for tracking down runners from behind.
When dropping back into coverage, Harvey-Clemons shows good zone awareness and the quickness to close in on anything underneath. He uses his length to undercut routes and get his hands on the ball or comes up with an interception.
While his versatility and length are certainly pluses, some things that are concerning about Harvey-Clemons are his lack sufficient strength and slender build. His strength deficiency is evident in his inability to shed blockers, both downfield or near the line of scrimmage. You may also see him being taken for a ride by powerful running backs as they overpower and run through him.
His instincts are also something to monitor, as he can have trouble quickly locating the ball, especially on read pass option plays. The same could be said about his coverage skills, as he can fail to turn his head and locate the ball. This can lead him to reach out and grab the receiver and get called for pass interference.
Harvey-Clemons also struggles with quicker receivers, as he does not possess the foot speed or short-area quickness to keep up with faster athletes. Quick hitting plays like screens or ones that deployed rub or pick routes tend to slow down his reaction speed.
With the second chance he was given by Louisville, where he’s playing under Todd Grantham again, Harvey-Clemons is generating pre-draft buzz as a hybrid safety/linebacker.
While some of the comparisons to Seattle’s Kam Chancellor or Arizona’s Deone Bucannon are understandable, Harvey-Clemons is nowhere near the physical presence or enforcer that both of those players are. Additionally, Chancellor and Bucannon were better in coverage at this stage of their developments than Harvey-Clemons is currently.
While his length and versatility are definite strengths, Clemons is far from a finished product. He will need to continue to show development and improvement throughout his senior season at Louisville, while at the same time making sure he stays clean off the field in order to be considered anything higher than a Day 3 prospect.