STATESBORO, Ga. (WTOC) - Two Georgia Southern University football players have a record tonight and it isn’t for sports.
It was supposed to be an exciting day for Georgia Southern, the first day of fall camp- marking the start of football season. Instead, some bigger news came out of Statesboro as two players were notably absent from practice and charged with serious crimes. Coming off a bowl win last season, there was plenty of anticipation for the 2019 season- but the morning didn’t go as planned. The on-the-field practice turned into major attention on off-the-field criminal charges.
Head Football Coach Chad Lunsford dropped a bombshell before practice- announcing that starting quarterback Shai Werts and defensive end Quan Griffin were arrested in separate incidents this week.
Werts was arrested Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. near his hometown in Saluda, S.C.
Werts was pulled over for speeding when officers noticed he was driving 80 miles per hour. He was arrested when he was pulled over, after officers said he failed to stop when they turned on their lights. The report says his stories, “began mixing up and not making sense,” when explaining why he did not immediately pull over.
The report goes on to say that officers asked Werts about “the white powder on the hood of his vehicle”. It says that the officers tested the powder with a cocaine kit and it tested positive twice in the field, using samples from different places on the hood.
According to the officers, Werts said “it was bird poop that he had attempted to clean it up on Monday [July 29].”
Officers took more samples of the powder and put it into a sealed evidence bag and sent it to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for more testing.
Werts was charged with misdemeanor cocaine possession, according to the Saulda County Detention Center. WTOC has confirmed he bonded out on Aug. 1 and is back in Statesboro at this time.
Below is the complete police report on the incident:
Werts is a redshirt junior from Clinton, S.C. He has started at quarterback the last two seasons. In 2018, he was named to the All-Sun Belt Conference second team and was MVP on the Raycom Camilla Bowl. He played 759 of 774 offensive snaps, setting a pair of school records with his passing and was the only FBS starting QB to not throw an interception.
WTOC has reached out to Werts for a comment.
Werts’ suspension leaves questions about who will be the starting QB heading into the Aug. 31 kickoff against LSU in Death Valley. He has returned to practice.
“We talk an awful lot here about next man up and this is an opportunity right now for some young guys at quarterback and we don’t have really anybody that’s taken snaps in a game, so they’re going to have to grow up quick and you know, see what they’re all about. I did think the quarterbacks came out and handled it very well today, though,” said Lunsford.
Griffin was arrested Thursday night in Florida in connection with a domestic incident involving his family. Two of his relatives were also arrested at the same time.
Griffin was booked at 5:35 p.m. that night and faces four felony charges: battery, damage to property/criminal mischief, burglary and residential robbery . In total, there are eight charges against Griffin, the other four are aggravated battery, a weapon offense, larceny and obstructing justice.
He and his family members were in front of a judge on Friday where they were formally charged, had bond set and were assigned public defenders. Griffin is still behind bars at the Bradford County jail in Florida at this time with a bond of $345,000.
WTOC has reached out to the public defender’s office for more information.
Griffin is a junior from Glen Saint Mary, Fla. He played in all 13 games in the 2018 season, earning one start. He tallied 22 tackles and led the team with three forced fumbles.
The team crossed over Beautiful Eagle Creek Friday morning, ready to get practice underway, but Lunsford paused to read a prepared statement on behalf of himself and the university as the team began the first day of fall practice.
The statement, in full, read: “Keeping with our student athlete code of conduct, Georgia Southern University has interimly suspended quarterback Shai Werts and defensive end Quan Griffin from all football-related operations after we received information that the two were recently arrested in separate incidents this week. Shai was arrested in Saluda, S.C. Wednesday during a traffic stop. It is our understanding he was charged with speeding misdemeanor possession of cocaine after some residue was discovered on the hood of the car. Quan was arrested yesterday in Baker Co., Fla. It is our understanding he was charged in conjunction with a domestic dispute. These suspensions are in place to protect Shai, Quan and the University and will allow us to gather more information."
The university will not be providing any additional information.
While Lunsford couldn’t comment further on the charges legally, he did say knowing the players, the news was hard on him.
“Anytime you get close to somebody, and we- we’re very intentional to get close with all our players. We, you know, I challenged our coaches, I challenged myself to build relationships with guys, so, anytime things happen like this, you know, it’s definitely going to hurt and bother you and all that kind of stuff, but again, young people and we’ve got to look into it and see what happened.”
Lunsford said he tried to keep his players as focused as possible Friday as the game against the Tigers is looming just 29 short days away.
“Character versus reputation. You know, reputation is what people think of you. Character is what you really are and, so I challenged our guys today. Hey man, you got to step up and you got to overcome this adversity and be a team.”
The players said all-in-all they had a good day on the field and know they have to have the “next man up” mentality. They maintained that the team is a brotherhood and stood by their teammates.
“We just want to keep them in our prayers, you know, just hit them up and make sure everything is good and stuff like that,” senior cornerback Kindle Vildor added.
It is unclear at this time if the players will begin classes on August 19.
WTOC will continue to update this story as we learn more.