Kent State
22
Final
39
(1) Georgia
Two weeks after Georgia defeated Alabama for the national title, UGA receiver Jermaine Burton announced his transfer to the Crimson Tide. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Jermaine Burton focused on Alabama title hopes, ‘forgot about’ Georgia championship game

ATHENS —Jermaine Burton has moved on after helping Georgia win a national championship, his sights set on another title with his new team at Alabama.

Burton transferred to play for the Tide less than two weeks after playing a significant role in the Bulldogs beating them, 33-18, in the CFP Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

It was Burton who sparked what proved to be the game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter with Georgia trailing 18-13 and 10:14 left.

Burton gained 18 yards on a first-down catch on the first play of the series from the UGA 25, and on second down, he blew past the defender to the extent they had to tackle him to prevent him being wide open for a TD pass.

That pass interference penalty moved the ball another 15 yards to the Alabama 42, and three plays later, Adonai Mitchell caught the go-ahead TD pass.

Burton, no doubt, brought a key element to the offense with his ability to stretch the field, his 19.1 yards-per-catch average leading all of the Bulldogs’ pass catchers who had more than 10 catches last season.

On Monday, making his first media appearance with a college program, Burton explained how he has shifted his focus forward toward those who are supporting him in Tuscaloosa.

Burton has a national championship ring from Georgia, like everyone else on the team, but the game is far, far behind him.

“I honestly forgot about that game, I want to win it with this team,” Burton said.

Pickens and Jackson were not at receiver in the next season’s opening game with Clemson, however, and Burton was less than 100 percent after dealing with a sprained knee in the spring and ankle injury in fall drills.

Kirby Smart questioned the logic of running too many multiple receiver sets when so many of his wideouts were injured, and Daniels was nursing upper-body injuries stemming from an awkward hit in a fall scrimmage.

The UGA offense was forced to evolve, and as it did freshman sensation Brock Bowers evolved, tailbacks James Cook and Kenny McIntosh were effective receiving threats out of the backfield, and the perimeter receivers were targeted less.

To put things into perspective, Burton was targeted 32 times in 14 games — Bowers was targeted 16 times in one game, alone.

Even the most staunch Georgia fans recognized that Alabama’s offense has become designed to feature receivers in a much more favorable manner.

The Tide has producing five first-round picks at the receiver position over the past three seasons, and Burton understandably hopes to fall in line.

“I’m just trying to make the best decision I can for me and my family,” Burton said, asked why he transferred out. "

“From this point on, I’m just focusing on this team and what we can do to get better.”

Of course, Burton acknowledged, when he first arrived at Alabama the teams’ games were brought up, the Tide winning the SEC Championship Game 41-24 before falling to the Bulldogs in the CFP title matchup.

“Yeah it definitely was, but it didn’t go the way I think it would go,” Burton said.

“I honestly thought it was going to be some guys who still felt some kind of way about the game or some kind of envy or animosity. But this team brought me in with unbelievable arms and welcomed me.”

Burton, voted a preseason first-team All-SEC pick, figures to be a bigger part of the Alabama offense than first thought after fellow Tide receiver JoJo Earle suffered a foot injury expected to sideline him for two months.

RELATED: Jermaine Burton tops Winners and Losers list from SEC Media Days

Georgia coach Kirby Smart lamented his team’s lack of experienced depth at the position as well with Burton’s transfer, Arian Smith’s recent ankle surgery and De’Nylon Morrissette’s hyperextended knee.

“We don’t have the depth at the position, it is every year,” Smart said.

“Wide outs are very similar where if they don’t get the ball, they are gone,” Smart said. “You constantly have new players. If they are really good they are gone to the draft. That is where one of our juniors (Pickens) is. Everything is cyclical.

“Right now at wideout, we don’t have great depth, and we have a couple injuries.”

But Georgia, unlike any other program, has a room full of tight ends capable of stepping into big receiver roles.

In addition to Bowers, offensive coordinator Todd Monken has LSU transfer Arik Gilbert along with 6-foot-7 target Darnell Washington and a rising incoming freshman star in Oscar Delp to work with.

It’s a Georgia team that, at the moment is built different out of necessity, Burton’s transfer both evidence and a byproduct of as much.

“We honestly don’t worry about the competition part; we just learn everything about the offense so we can get the play right, Burton said, explaining how the Tide’s receivers room has jelled. “We all want the best for each other.”

There are plenty of footballs to go around.

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