ATHENS — It turns out Kirby Smart was sitting on this most recent NCAA rules changeup, ready to hit it out of the park.
That’s what Georgia football has done in this new world of collegiate football free agency — or the one-time transfer rule, whatever you want to call it.
The Bulldogs have added, in order:
• West Virginia defensive back (star) Tykee Smith
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• Alabama cornerback Brandon Turnage
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• Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick
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• LSU tight end/receiver Arik Gilbert
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Gilbert’s announcement on Tuesday came one year to the day after Georgia quarterback JT Daniels reported to the UGA campus after transferring from USC.
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If the NCAA wants to make transfers a part of the landscape, coaches are going to adjust accordingly.
Georgia has also lost key contributors via the transfer route that are worth noting.
Cade Mays was a versatile offensive line starter who ended up at Tennessee.
Divaad Wilson (Central Florida) and Otis Reese (Ole Miss) were budding defensive backs who would have been of great value when Richard LeCounte was injured during Georgia’s stretch run last season.
Tyrique Stevenson (Miami) was in line to start at the Star position this season, and Major Burns (LSU) was next man up at safety.
Two players UGA attained via transfer also left the program since the start of last season.
Jermaine Johnson (Florida State) is an all-conference rush end who would have made UGA’s defensive front even more intimidating, while D’Wan Mathis (Temple) could have provided the ultimate Wildcat option or transitioned into a productive receiver.
UGA has indeed been on both sides of the revolving door.
Justin Fields transfer to Ohio State after his freshman year (2018) was well-documented.
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It came in the midst of a Heisman Trophy run that saw three straight winners (2017-2019) who began their collegiate careers elsewhere:
• Baker Mayfield (Texas Tech to Oklahoma)
• Kyler Murray (Texas A&M to Oklahoma)
• Joe Burrow (Ohio State to LSU)
Mayfield and Murray had to sit out a season under the previous NCAA rules, which required a waiver for immediate eligibility. Burrow was a graduate transfer and was thus able to play without sitting out.
The SEC is expected to soon reach a decision to eliminate or modify its current league rule that intraconference transfers sit out a season.
Things will get even more complex when the NIL kicks into effect and marketing begins to play a role in recruiting.
Georgia is one of a handful of schools that has proven it can get its talent to the NFL, producing a school-record number of draft picks (9) last month, with more expected in 2022.
Soon, the Bulldogs will also be playing up the NIL advantage of the seventh-largest media market (Atlanta) in their back yards.
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What could be better than making a lot of money in college while preparing to make even more in the NFL?
It’s a lot to think about, and with legislation pending and rules in flux, nothing is concrete.
What Georgia football fans do know is that Kirby Smart is working to stay a step ahead of the game.
Recruits and transfers appear to know that, too, as the recent additions and a No 1-ranked 2022 Class would reflect.
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