A shock was delivered to Georgia Southern fans just minutes before the team officially opened fall football camp on Friday as head coach Chad Lunsford announced the arrests and subsequent suspensions of two Eagle players — most notably starting quarterback Shai Werts.
“Shai was arrested Wednesday in Saluda, South Carolina,” Lunsford said. “It is our understanding that he was charged with speeding and misdemeanor possession of cocaine after some residue was found on the hood of the car.”
Werts came to Georgia Southern in 2016 and sat out his first season before winning the starting quarterback job as a redshirt freshman ahead of the 2017 season opener. He has started all but one game - missed due to injury in 2017 - since then and has become the leader of the Eagle offense.
Last season was a breakout performance for Werts as he passed for 987 yards and 10 touchdowns without throwing an interception. He also ran for 908 yards, earning All-Sun Belt Honorable mention as well as the MVP of the Camellia Bowl victory that capped off Georgia Southern’s season.
An issue of the full release report from Werts’ arrest states that he was initially clocked as speeding just outside the town of Saluda. What a police officer flashed his lights, Werts placed a call to 911, informing the dispatcher that he was aware of the officer and intended to pull over, but that he wanted to continue off the highway before doing so.
The report states that the officer initiating the pursuit was made aware of Werts’ request, but that two other police vehicles intervened and stopped Werts on the highway. Werts was immediately placed under arrest for speeding and was later questioned about a substance found on the hood of his vehicle. Werts claimed that it was bird droppings and when two field test kits provided positive results for cocaine, Werts denied having any knowledge as to how cocaine would have been on the hood of his car.
While Werts was charged for possession due to the positive field kit test, the report also states that he did not appear to be under the influence of any kind of drug and — while no official search of the vehicle was documented — that the interior of the car didn’t raise any suspicion.
Werts was released on bond and returned to Statesboro on Friday.
It is unclear what the length of suspension will be for Werts. Lunsford added that — because information involved with the arrest is now part of ongoing an legal investigation — Georgia Southern will have no more information on the issues.
Also announced on Friday was the suspension of defensive end Quan Griffin.
“Quan was arrested (Thursday) in Baker County, Florida,” Lunsford said. “It is our understanding that he was charged in conjunction with a domestic dispute.”
Griffin, a rising junior, saw action in all 13 games last season and was in the starting lineup once. He tallied 22.5 tackles, including three sacks, and led the team with three forced fumbles.
The Herald will update this story as any new information pertaining to the investigation emerges.