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Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart and Bryant Gantt enters the Mercedes-Benz Stadium for SEC Championship Game against the LSU Tigers in Atlanta on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. Gantt is the Director of Player Support and Operations. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

How the transfer portal will impact Georgia football as it preps for College Football Playoff: ‘You’re always going to look’

The transfer portal is not something new to college football. But due to changes in the college football calendar, the transfer portal figures to be a much bigger and crazier deal this December.

Starting today, non-graduate players can officially enter the transfer portal. They have until Jan. 18 to enter the portal, as it is one of two windows on the calendar for players to enter the portal throughout the year. The other comes in May.

You’ve already seen big names like Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims or Alabama offensive lineman Javion Cohen enter the transfer portal for other teams. But none of those players are prepping for a College Football Playoff game like Georgia and Ohio State are.

“Well, certainly this is an unprecedented time in college football with the portal and all that going on, and there’s a lot of dynamics at play with that,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “So we have those conversations and try to do the best we can to make sure that we’re recruiting great high school players and developing them and keeping them in the program.”

Related: Kirby Smart reacts to CFP pairing with Ohio State, ‘it’s about who plays better’

And it isn’t just players on the current rosters that Georgia and other programs have to balance. They’re also looking into the portal to see which players might potentially help fill some of the roster needs in 2023.

The hard part is keeping everyone and everything locked in on the task at hand. Last season, Georgia didn’t have a player enter the transfer portal until after the Bulldogs won the national championship.

One of those was Ameer Speed, a cornerback who went on to start at Michigan State this season. While individually Speed had more success elsewhere, he was in the stands on Saturday watching his old team win an SEC championship.

That’s the potential risk of leaving a team as talented as Georgia.

“The focus is on our team. It wouldn’t be fair to all the guys playing if you weren’t focused on your team,” Smart said. “So you can’t put a ton of focus and attention to looking for kids in the portal and things like that.”

Georgia was the lone Power 5 school that didn’t take any players out of the transfer portal this cycle. Smart referenced such fact after beating Tennessee earlier this season. But that wasn’t by design, but rather circumstance. The Bulldogs recruited players from the portal.

Related: Amarius Mims on his time in the transfer portal: ‘Georgia was the best place for me’

Smart made sure to clarify that the Bulldogs aren’t going to outright ignore the transfer portal. That would be malpractice in this day and age, even with Georgia having such a strong culture.

“That’s why to me it’s so critical now in recruiting to evaluate more players because you may get the guy on rebound, and you’d better know a better history than just what somebody calls and tells you about him,” Smart said. “I want to know when they came on the visit. I want to know when we talked to them. I want to know when they came to our camp.

“I’m a lot more likely to take a kid that I think is wired the right way even though he’s coming from the portal, but I’d better have known about him coming out of high school.”

Smart and Day both stressed the importance of building their teams through high school recruits. That helps better establish the team culture. There’s also a risk in taking a player out of the transfer portal, as not everyone might fit or work out the way many assume.

The unknown is what makes the transfer portal so enticing, especially this time around. Will players at Georgia and Ohio State wait to finish out the season, knowing other spots at other schools could be gone if they wait too long? And what happens to the team chemistry if a player announces he’s coming to Georgia in the middle of a playoff run. How does that impact the current batch of players?

And if a player does enter the transfer portal, would they be able to continue to practice with the team?

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