Like the rest of college sports, the SEC seems to be getting with the times when it comes to restrictions on transfer. The conference announced on Thursday that it would no longer force players to sit out a season when transferring from one institution to another.
This move comes after the NCAA had amended its own transfer rule, granting immediate eligibility to first-time transfer students. Other conferences such as the ACC, Big 12 and PAC-12 have all done away with their intraconference transfer rules as well.
“This is an important measure to further support student-athletes throughout the Southeastern Conference,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “While maintaining the expectation that coaches and others avoid improper recruiting, this change will ensure that student-athletes who enroll at an SEC member institution will enjoy the flexibility afforded to other student-athletes across the nation.”
In order to gain immediate eligibility at a new school, a student-athlete will need to declare his or her intent to transfer by February 1 for Fall sports, May 1 for Winter sports and July 1 for Spring sports.
The February date for fall sports is different than the NCAA’s, which has a May 1 date for fall sports.
Georgia stands to already benefit from this rule change. The Bulldogs welcomed Arik Gilbert earlier this week. He spent last season at LSU before transferring out of the program officially in January.
The new rule also impacts defensive back transfer Brandon Turnage, who arrived from Alabama in May.
The Bulldogs though have already lost one player to another SEC school, as defensive back Major Burns transferred to LSU in May.
LSU, Georgia join Alabama in teams that had already accepted a transfer player from another SEC institution. The Crimson Tide brought in Tennessee linebacker Henry To’o To’o earlier in the offseason.
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As demonstrated, Georgia will give and take from its fellow SEC programs. Of the four transfer players Georgia brought in this offseason, all of them came from a Power 5 institution. Head coach Kirby Smart clearly puts a premium on taking players with major college football experience.
Now that SEC players become a more realistic option, expect to see Georgia involved in that sense. Even prior to the passing of this rule, Georgia had found success when it brought in SEC graduate transfers in Maurice Smith from Alabama and Eli Wolff from Tennessee.
It should also be expected though that Georgia will see some of its players potentially depart for other programs within the conference. In 2020, Cade Mays left for Tennessee and Otis Reese ended up at Ole Miss. Both players were granted eligibility by the league last season, as the conference pointed to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic as to why.
Smart has made it clear in the past that he still prefers developing players that arrive at Georgia as high school recruits rather than plucking talented players out of the portal.
“If I had my preference,” Smart said prior to the Peach Bowl win over Cincinnati, “I would rather not use the portal because schools like Cincinnati and Georgia shouldn’t have to, you should be able to go out and recruit the right kind of guys.”
Three of the four transfer additions this offseason have come at the defensive back position. Georgia had four defensive backs drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft and a fifth sign as an undrafted free agent. It also saw cornerback Tyrique Stevenson transfer out of the program to play for Miami.
The addition of Gilbert, someone Smart has badly wanted since he was the No. 5 overall player in the 2020 recruiting cycle, should help offset the loss of George Pickens. The talented wide receiver suffered an ACL injury in March and his status for the coming season is uncertain.
Since the start of the 2020 season, the Bulldogs have seen nine players transfer out of the program, with Stevenson, Burns and outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson being the most impactful. All three of those players ended up at Power 5 programs.
Georgia began offseason workouts this week, with transfers Tykee Smith, Derion Kendrick, Turnage and Gilbert all being on campus.
The Bulldogs open the 2021 season on Sept. 4 against Clemson. The same Clemson where Kendrick turned into an all-conference cornerback.
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