ATHENS — Georgia football had three transfers that may have made the difference in preserving an undefeated season last Saturday, and Kirby Smart is not at all surprised.
“I think we needed all three,” Smart said, asked about grad transfers Eli Wolf and Lawrence Cager, and junior college transfer DJ Daniel. “They’ve played well.”
No doubt, all three players came up big in the 23-17 win over Notre Dame as well as other games when afforded opportunities for 4-0 UGA.
There’s a good chance Wolf, Cager and Daniel will be relied upon again when the No 3-ranked Bulldogs play at Tennessee at 7 p.m. next Saturday.
Cager, a graduate transfer from Miami, was the most obvious standout against the Irish with his team-high 5 catches for 82 yards and gyrating fourth quarter TD grab.
“He’s a guy who has worked, we’ve been working all summer and all fall,” Georgia QB Jake Fromm said after the win. “He’s a guy I can trust in clutch situations.”
Fromm has trusted Wolf, too, and the former Tennessee Vols’ team captain has more than filled Isaac Nauta’s shoes.
Wolf has 7 catches on 7 targets for 98 yards, coming up with yet another big third down catch to sustain the Bulldog’s game-tying touchdown drive against Notre Dame last Saturday.
“I think he’s a talented player and a weapon for us,” Smart said earlier this season.
Georgia senior tight end Charlie Woerner, along with Jake Fromm, were the first two players to help recruit Wolf to the Bulldogs after he entered the transfer portal.
“Eli is a really clean and crisp route runner, and he’s a really fast guy,” Woerner said. “Since he first got here in June, what he brought to the pass game, he brought an element we needed in this offense.”
Wolf was a receiver in high school before transitioning to tight end. At 240 pounds, Wolf runs a sub 4.6-second 40-yard dash and presents matchup problems.
Woerner said he had no issue helping to bring Wolf into his position group, even if it did mean more competition.
“It’s a little different you’re bringing in older dudes, but at the same time you’re just trying to win games,” Woerner said, “and you want to get the best possible players on your team so that you can to win ball games, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Cager, who Smart originally tried to recruit to Alabama, shares the team lead with 10 catches for 2 TDs, and he’s third on the team with 139 receiving yards.
“Lawrence has brought a lot to this team, he’s a big receiver, he’s a big guy, older guy,” Woerner said. “It’s his fifth year, so he brings a lot of leadership and a really good work ethic to the field.”
And then there’s Daniel, the No. 2-ranked JUCO cornerback coming out of Georgia Military College, where he was a team captain last season.
Daniel drew his first career start with the Bulldogs in place of injured cornerback Tyson Campbell against Notre Dame, and he made five tackles while also limiting the Irish’s receivers.
It was also Daniel who knocked down Ian Book’s final last-gasp pass as Georgie got the win in the battle of Top 10 teams.
“Those guys were all good players where they were (before),” Smart said. “I mean, Wolf was at the SEC Media Days (2018), Lawrence Cager was a major factor at Miami and DJ was his team’s best corner, so they were all good football players.
“We’re just thankful and blessed to have recruited them and also to prepare them to play in big games,” Smart said. “That’s why they came, they wanted to play in these big games. They’re good players and they fit well into our system.”
Junior college transfer Jermaine Johnson is still making his case, at linebacker too. Johnson was in on the QB pressure with freshman Nolan Smith on Notre Dame’s final offensive play last Saturday.