Kirby Smart, Georgia football players share first impressions of transfer arrivals

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart during Georgia’s spring practice session in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. (Tony Walsh/UGAAA)
Tony Walsh

ATHENS — It was a major talking point during the 2022 season that Georgia did not bring anyone in from the transfer portal. Kirby Smart downplayed that angle often, saying there just wasn’t a proper mesh of need and fit for what Georgia was looking for.

National pundits won’t be able to tout the same line about this Georgia team, as the Bulldogs brought in three players from the transfer portal. Rara Thomas and Dominic Lovett will help bolster the wide receiver position, while Deyon ‘Smoke’ Bouie’s versatility makes him an interesting piece for this secondary.

“When you talk about Dom and RaRa, they’re guys that have competed in our league, they’ve caught a lot of passes in our league, they’ve been very productive in our league and it was a position that we were losing several players at,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “We needed to be able to help our quarterbacks. Quarterbacks need some weapons to throw to, and those guys do that.”

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Thomas, Lovett and Bouie all played for SEC teams prior to arriving at Georgia. But playing for the Bulldogs is a different task for these transfers. Not every player to transfer to Georgia in recent years has been a hit. Quarterback JT Daniels and tight end Arik Gilbert arrived in Athens with tons of hype, only to end up transferring out of the program.

So far, Lovett, Thomas and Bouie are doing the right things to impress their new teammates.

“Very handsy player,” Javon Bullard said of Bouie. “I love watching him play. Gets his hands on receivers, very physical at the point of attack. Very quick and agile, he moves well. I think he’ll make a great fit on our team.”

Bouie found himself practicing with the cornerbacks on Thursday’s practice. That came as a mild surprise given most thought he would play at either the star or safety position.

With it being spring practice, Georgia is going to get creative moving Bouie around the defensive secondary to find the position where he best fits.

“We’ve known a lot about him, and we’re looking forward to seeing him go compete in a secondary with a lot of open spots,” Smart said.

On offense, Lovett was working out of the slot behind Ladd McConkey, while Thomas has been playing on the outside. Lovett and Bullard became fast friends in the Georgia locker room, with the Georgia defensive back seeing Lovett like his little brother.

“He was one of the first guys when I came back, we were in the locker just chopping it up,’ Bullard said. “Very quick, very fast, very agile, gets in and out of his breaks really good. Great route runner. Knows how to play with his speed a lot.”

Lovett and Thomas both led their teams in receiving last season. They’ll give whoever Georgia’s next quarterback is more options to target downfield.

“Those guys came in an immediately wanted to learn the playbook, immediately wanted to get in the weight room, wanted to get out there and get some work in,” McConkey said. “Those are two hard-working guys. I can already tell they’re going to bring a lot for us. I’m excited to get out there and see what those guys bring.”

Not every transfer player is going to come in and make an immediate impact as Derion Kendrick did on the 2021 championship team. Lovett, Thomas and Bouie all have multiple years of eligibility, so they’ve got time to make an impact on the field for Georgia.

The Bulldogs hope that their past SEC experience should put them in a position to make an impact sooner rather than later.

Javon Bullard dishes on transfer additions

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