ATHENS — Alabama coach Nick Saban has spoken on the pending issue of a new transfer rule that will give players immediate eligibility, and Georgia fans should take comfort.
“I don’t think we’re going to have our best players on our team want to leave Alabama,” Saban told AL.Com, putting the takeaway of the rule into context for most championship-level programs.
UGA coach Kirby Smart and Saban share many of the same philosophies, and the Bulldogs program is built similar to the Tide in terms of the recruitment and development of elite talent.
But Smart is also sharp enough to use transfers when and where his program has a need, as he was among the first to call current Georgia quarterback JT Daniels when the former USC quarterback put his name in the transfer portal last April.
Smart recently struck again, adding honorable mention All-American defensive back Tykee Smith from West Virginia with the Bulldogs expected to have five players from last year’s secondary selected in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Georgia appears on the verge of what will be a school record-breaking class of 10 or 11 players selected in one NFL draft, leaving room for one or two more transfers.
But recruiting remains the Bulldogs’ lifeblood and Smart’s primary method for building the program, as evidenced by UGA currently boasting the top-ranked class of 2022 commits.
Georgia had eight players transfer out since the start of the 2020 season, but none of them projected starters.
“I don’t think our good players are going to be leaving,” Saban said, echoing that what has happened at Alabama has been similar. “But I think we’ll be able to get some good players to join us, when we have room to do that.”
Georgia could have some attrition following the annual G-Day Game at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Smart said last December he understands the intent of the transfer rule is wanting to do what’s best for players, but he’s not sure leaving for an easier path is ultimately the ideal situation.
On the one hand, Smart said he sees the value of players staying and working harder and persevering, but on the other, he knows there are schools that can and will offer immediate playing time.
“There’s no perfect or right answer,” Smart said.
Indeed, per CBSsports.com, there are more than 1,000 players in the transfer portal, which is easily more than there are scholarships available. Once a player declares for the portal, the school can cancel his/her scholarship.
There are no guarantees for transfers, just as there are no guarantees for players who leave early for the NFL draft. About 30 percent of players who declare early do not get selected in the draft, as has been well-documented with recent Bulldogs’ players.
Here’s a look at the UGA players who transferred in and out since the start of the 2020 summer offseason season and where they are now
• QB JT Daniels, Southern Cal
• DB Tykee Smith (pending), West Virginia
• OLB Jermaine Johnson (Florida State)
• DB Tyrique Stevenson (Miami)
• QB D’Wan Mathis (Temple)
• WR Matt Landers (Toledo)
• WR Trey Blount (Old Dominion)
• WR Makiya Tongue (Oregon State)
• RB-DB Prather Hudson (Illinois)
• WR Tommy Bush (yet to announce)
*None of the above-listed players transferring out were expected to start at their desired positions this season. Only Johnson, Stevenson and Landers were projected to play significant roles.
** The SEC has yet to announce any changes to its league rule for intraconference transfers, which stipulates players must get a waiver for immediate eligibility when transferring within the league.