ATHENS — The departure of freshman safety Johnathan Abram is the only one – so far – since Kirby Smart was hired as head coach.
Smart confirmed Wednesday that Abram, who started four games last season, has left the program. Abram’s mother told the AJC/DawgNation on Monday that her son was no longer with the program.
Smart, who recruited Abram to Alabama, said he actually tried to talk Abram into staying.
“I had a relationship with him and encouraged him to stay,” Smart said. “But he’s got some personal and family issues that he’s had to deal with and right now it’s the best thing for him.”
While there has been talk about two other freshmen leaving the program (receiver Shaquery Wilson and cornerback Juwuan Briscoe) the high school coaches for each player have said this week their understanding is they are staying. Smart said he didn’t know of any other transfers.
“But as of right now that’s all we’re dealing with,” Smart said.
Abram looked to have a bright future on Georgia’s defense. But the departures of Mark Richt and subsequently Jeremy Pruitt derailed that; Abram was recruited by Pruitt out of Mississippi.
Smart acknowledged that other departures are “inevitable,” as is typical during a coaching transition. He said he planned on having individual meetings with players after signing day. Smart has met with some of them already, but position coaches and strength coaches have already had that opportunity.
“There’s going to be kids that felt they were so loyal to that coach or that staff, or some staff member, that they feel like they need to take the chance to go look somewhere else,” Smart said. “But our job is to convince them that we’re here for them too. To build that relationship, to make sure that they know that they’re part of this family, that they chose to come to the University of Georgia for that reason. We want to make those reasons the same. …
“But is it inevitable, I do believe it’s inevitable. When you change the culture, sometimes people feel like they don’t fit the culture, and then they elect to leave. There’s regrets about that. It affects your APR (Academic Progress Rate, the NCAA’s measuring stick), it affects your graduation rates long term. But at the end of the day they’ve got to decide what’s best for them, and we can’t sacrifice our goals or culture for one player.”