ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart doesn’t make the rules, but he’s proven to be a fast study when it comes to adjusting to them.
The Bulldogs have three of the Top 10 ranked 2020 transfers per 247Sports: WR Arik Gilbert (No. 3), CB Derion Kendrick (No. 6), and defensive back Tykee Smith (No. 9). Alabama linebacker transfer Henry To’o To’o is ranked No. 1.
Interestingly enough, Smart and Alabama coach Nick Saban were two coaches who expressing some trepidation when the landscape started to shift toward immediate transfer eligibly.
Saban famously equated a more liberal transfer policy to free agency and indicated last fall the championship-level teams aren’t likely to be losing their top players.
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There are no doubts the recent NCAA transfer rule changes allowing for immediate eligibility and the SEC’s decision to waive the one-year transition period for intraconference transfers have been game-changers.
Smart has made the most of it by quickly rebuilding the Georgia secondary with experienced players.
The Bulldogs have been hit particularly hard by attrition in the defensive back meeting room. Ten players have transferred (5) or moved on to the NFL over the past two seasons.
Defensive back Tyrique Stevenson — who Smith is expected to replace at the “star” position — is ranked No. 10 among the transfers after heading to Miami.
Smart was upfront with everyone last spring when he said he would address the heavy attrition in the secondary through the transfer portal
“We want to recruit, develop, and work to get the best football players we possibly can in here,” Smart said. “I don’t think the guys that come out of the portal have issues or problems, that’s just not our normal protocol. It’s not what we want to build our program based around.
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“It’s a need-based deal. We have needs: defensive back is a spot that we’re thin at. We think that we have very capable, good young players in the position, but we don’t have a lot of experience. If you get an opportunity to gain experience .. we would not decline the ability to look at the option there.”
Here’s where other transfers who played at or were committed to Georgia rank in the 247Sports Top 150:
No. 34, DE Jermaine Johnson (Florida State)
No. 117 FS Major Burns (LSU)
No. 127 WR Demetris Robertson (Auburn)
No. 138 DB Brandon Turnage (Tennessee)
Former UGA receiver JJ Holloman, who is headed to Liberty after spending the past two seasons at Florida International University, was not listed.
Last year, 247sports said there were no “five-star” quality transfers. The organization had former Georgia offensive lineman Cade Mays and former USC quarterback JT Daniels among their 15 “four-star” transfers.
It is, of course, not a perfect science.
Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman was rated among the most elite class of transfers, and recruiting analyst Barton Simmons rated Mississippi State transfer KJ Costello as “the best QB in the SEC.”
Former Georgia defensive end Brenton Cox was also in the four-star category among the 2020 transfers after sitting out the previous season.