ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart is not reinventing the wheel when it comes to talent acquisition, but he is changing with the times.
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And this is a time of transition into an evolving transfer market.
The Bulldogs checked a lot of boxes via the transfer portal in the last year, from quarterback JT Daniels out of Southern Cal a year ago, to more recent additions this offseason:
• WR Arik Gilbert, LSU
• CB Derion Kendrick, Clemson
• CB Brandon Turnage, Alabama
• DB Tykee Smith, West Virginia
The SEC rule change to allow immediate eligibility for intraconference transfers and the NCAA one-time transfer policy are game-changers.
But championship-level programs like Georgia will continue to primarily be built from within by the traditional method of recruiting and developing players out of high school.
Those close to the Georgia program recognize that each of the transfers the Bulldogs added has been out of need. Further, each of the players had legitimate reasons for leaving their previous schools.
Georgia added star position player Tykee Smith after Tyrique Stevenson, who had spent two years in development at UGA, transferred back to South Florida to play for Miami.
Smith, also, was following his former coach at West Virginia (Jahmile Addae) in making the move.
The Bulldog’s next move was to secure a cornerback, and they did so in the form of former Alabama player Brandon Turnage.
Georgia had three cornerbacks moved on to the professional ranks, two of them underclassmen who were picked in the first (Eric Stokes) and second (Tyson Campbell) rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Another cornerback, second-year player Daran Branch, was not on the roster or with the team at the time of the annual G-Day Game in April and recently finalized his departure from the program.
Smart identified cornerback as a need in February and made it clear the Bulldogs planned to add depth at the position via the transfer portal.
Turnage was not only buried on the Crimson Tide’s depth chart, but he had also been moved to safety.
UGA offered Turnage when he coming out of Lafayette High School in Oxford, Miss., as a four-star prospect ranked No. 102 overall per the 247Sports composite rankings.
Kendrick, meanwhile, didn’t have the option of staying at his former school. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney had dismissed Kendrick after he missed offseason team functions. Kendrick would later explain he was tending to family issues and didn’t communicate properly.
Swinney spoke fondly of Kendrick after the dismissal, and Kendrick has said he appreciates the support and guidance he received at Clemson.
An off-field- misdemeanor gun possession charge and accompany marijuana citation didn’t help the PR aspect of Kendrick’s transfer to Georgia. But it can also be viewed as a second chance for a single father of two to provide for his family provided he has the strong season many expect and maintains his focus in Smart’s tightly run UGA program.
Gilbert left an LSU program that was struggling both on and off the field at the time, and he recently stated a desire to be closer to home.
Gilbert has said he wants to be closer to home (Marietta), and most agree he’ll benefit from having that family support in addition to getting the opportunities he’s looking for by moving to receiver.
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Georgia developed a need for a potential go-to target at the “X” when featured receiver George Pickens suffered a torn ACL in spring drills.
So in each instance, the Bulldogs were adding a player at a position of need, and not merely acquiring players for the sake of upgrades.
Further, each player had a legitimate reason for leaving their former program as well as choosing Georgia, specifically, as their destination.
The same can not be said for many of the other transfers taking place in what is quickly becoming a free-agent market.
The takeaway is that each transfer situation is different and should be judged as such.
Smart and Georgia aren’t making the rules, but they are smart enough to know they’ll need to make changes with them.