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How much will Georgia's drug policy impact Kirby Smart's recruiting?

Welcome to The Crootletter (sign up to get this in your inbox every morning!). I'm Bud Elliott, SB Nation's National Recruiting Analyst, and in this space I'll be sharing news, rumors and musings on the world of college football recruiting.

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Wednesday, new coach Kirby Smart acknowledged the disadvantage that is Georgia's drug policy compared to the policies of competing SEC programs, saying that it is "above me," and that he was made aware of the policies during his interview. For the uninitiated, Georgia suspends players for a game on the first test, and four games for a second test.

Compare that to Ole Miss or Florida, where a player's first loss of playing time comes on the third test (three games), with the fourth test resulting in the loss of six games.

"[Athletic director Greg McGarity] addressed it. And so did President Morehead. And I completely understand that," Smart told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "And I realize it’s not a completely level playing field. But we come in understanding that."

I discussed this with SB Nation's Steven Godfrey as part of a larger conversation about the Georgia job last fall.

Bud: Is Georgia really committed to winning at all costs like the SEC schools that actually win titles? Can the next coach get the weed policy loosened up to match Florida's? Can he get the Athens police to chill with some of the nonsense arrests? Can he get recruiting staff and film analysts out the wazoo like Alabama has? Those are things behind the scenes that people might not see, but that lead to wins.

Godfrey: The short answer is yes, because they have to. Richt's adherence to by-the-book discipline on all things minor (read: marijuana possession) is detrimental to both a program's success and a player's development. Georgia's policy is so far out of step with some competitors it's jarring. I think the right coach can change the perception of Georgia much in the same way Saban did to LSU.

Godfrey was half right. Georgia is beefing up its staffing, but Kirby Smart isn't getting that drug policy changed any time soon.

Does Georgia's drug policy have a huge impact on its recruiting? No. But in the fiercely contested SEC, every little thing counts.

Plus, Georgia having to suspend its athletes earlier, more often and for longer duration than other schools makes it look like it is more lawless than programs with similar levels of drug use. And that image can negatively impact a school's recruiting.

This also impacts recruiting in that if a player really loves weed, he may elect to go to a school where it's plausible that he could get away with smoking for a longer period of his career before facing any serious penalties.

And it could impact Georgia's decisions about who it recruits, because it has to factor in the negative externality of picking a player who likes weed; something that is not as big a deal at other programs. This could lead to Georgia passing on a player who would otherwise be higher on its wish list.

If we assume that players at all schools in the region use drugs at similar rates, it's easy to see how this is a disadvantage on the field as well, with players missing time who would be in the lineup at other programs.

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