kirby smart-nick saban-jermaine burton
December 4, 2021 Atlanta - Alabama's head coach Nick Saban and Georgia's head coach Kirby Smart shake hands after Alabama beat Georgia during the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game at during the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadiumin Atlanta on Saturday, December 4, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Jermaine Burton transfer shows why Kirby Smart, Nick Saban warned others about transfer portal

Perhaps you understand why Nick Saban and Kirby Smart warned against the dangers of the transfer portal.

Sunday saw Georgia wide receiver Jermaine Burton transfer to Alabama. Burton would’ve been Georgia’s most talented wide receiver in 2022, looking to build off his sophomore season. He had been hobbled by injuries all year, yet still led Georgia in receiving yards.

Now he’ll be playing his junior season at Alabama. From a development standpoint, it’s hard to argue against the selection of Alabama. Just look at what Jameson Williams did this season after transferring from Ohio State. Even after tearing his ACL against Georgia, Williams is still projected to be a first-round pick. Add in that Alabama has had two wide receivers taken in the first round of the past two drafts, it’s hard to argue against the decision made by Burton from an individual standpoint.

Related: Former Georgia wide receiver Jermaine Burton announces transfer to Alabama

Burton made a decision that helps him as an individual. That is the power of the transfer portal in that it puts the power in the hands of individuals. It runs counter to the ethos of football, a fundamentally team sport.

The transfer portal was thought of as some great equalizer, helping redistribute talent from teams like Georgia and Alabama to lesser talented teams. For example, of the eight Georgia players to enter the transfer portal so far, four of them are going to other SEC schools. Add in Ameer Speed transferring to Michigan State and the chances of JT Daniels playing for a Power 5 and you can see how the transfer portal is redistributing the wealth of talent on Georgia’s roster.

Georgia football players in the transfer portal

That’s why he’s joining an Alabama offense that must replace Williams and John Metchie. The Crimson Tide have also added Georgia Tech’s best offensive player in running back Jahymr Gibbs and star LSU cornerback Eli Ricks as well this offseason. Williams and Henry To’oto’o were transfer portal additions last year for the Crimson Tide.

To be clear, Georgia has taken players out of the portal as well. It is not a one-way flow of talent for the Bulldogs. Georgia landed Derion Kendrick, Tykee Smith and Arik Gilbert out of the portal last offseason. No one was calling those players quitters or traitors for electing to use the portal to better their own careers.

Georgia will also be likely to use the transfer portal again this offseason, almost certainly at the wide receiver position. The Bulldogs will likely be taking a very talented player from another Power 5 program.

That’s what the transfer portal has become as well. In addition to helping the Arkansas’ and Michigan State’s of the world, the elite programs are clearly benefitting as well now.

The talent isn’t being shared, it’s just being repackaged and shifted around. Power programs like Georgia and Alabama will continue to get the more developed, top-of-the-line prospects, with the lesser programs fighting for those who aren’t playing as much as they would like at Georgia and Alabama.

“We’re going to continue to try to create value for our players personally, academically and athletically so they have a better chance to be more successful in life,” Saban said. “And hopefully our players can buy into that so they won’t want to go someplace else. But a lot of this is based on playing time. And when you have 85 guys on scholarship, everybody can’t start.”

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