Bulldogs hitting paydirt on transfers

J.R. Reed-Georgia-transfer
Safety J.R. Reed backpedals during at drill at a recent Georgia football practice. The sophomore transfer currently is a starter in the Bulldogs' defensive backfield.

ATHENS — Ahkil Crumpton, J.R. Reed, Cameron Nizialek and David Marvin.

These four members of the Georgia football team have two things in common: (1) They are transfers; (2) each of them may end up starting for the Bulldogs this fall.

Second-year Georgia coach Kirby Smart has a reputation for being an exceptional recruiter, and rightly so as the Bulldogs have closed on back-to-back Top 10 classes under his guidance. But not included in those rankings are players who are transferring from other schools. And while it is very common for schools to add to their rosters in that manner these days, it’s unusual to get what might be four starters via that route.

Here’s how they’re fitting in:

J.R. Reed, 6-1, 194, DB

This redshirt sophomore defensive back from Frisco, Texas, came to Georgia after playing one season at Tulsa. The son of NFL 12-year veteran wideout Jake Reed, J.R. Reed sat out last season via the NCAA transfer rule. He played in 13 games as a freshman at Tulsa but finished with only 5 tackles. At Georgia, he’s currently playing safety alongside senior Dominick Sanders on the first-team defense. He has also worked at the Star position, where senior Aaron Davis is currently getting the starting nod.

“I didn’t know what we were getting,” Smart said of accepting Reed’s transfer. “I knew he was a really good athlete. I knew he was fast. We didn’t know much. We just heard from his coaches and they all said he was a good player. We were deficient in that area and he’s turned out to be probably the best decision we’ve made from the standpoint of transfers, junior college players.

“That was a huge get for us because we’re struggling a little bit right now in the secondary from a standpoint of depth. And he’s made it where we’ve got five guys we can play with right now. Without him we might be four or less. So, he’s done a good job.”

Ahkil Crumpton, 5-9, 175, WR/KR

Ahkil Crumpton is a dynamic returns specialist who also is getting extensive work at Georgia’s slot position. The Philadelphia native transferred to UGA from Los Angeles Valley Community College in late July after one of the Bulldogs’ 26 signees failed to gain admission. Crumpton is competing with junior Terry Godwin for punt-return duties, has gotten looks returning kickoffs and is better than expected as a receiver.

“Those jobs are up for grabs,” Smart said after Tuesday’s practice, the 14th of the preseason. “But he did do a nice job in the scrimmage Saturday of fielding the ball, possessing the ball. … [As a receiver] he’s a blessing in disguise. He’s running great routes, he’s really good in and out of breaks. He’s got great hands, really big hands for a small guy. He snatches the ball out there, plucks it, and he’s really done a great job. The tough thing is that he’s in competition with Mecole [Hardman] some, Terry some, and Mark Webb is working in the slot some. [Crumpton’s] specialty is returning, but he’s not a one-trick guy. The guy goes in there and does well.”

Cameron Nizialek, 6-2, 200, P

Cameron Nizialek comes to the Bulldogs from the Ivy League, of all places. He entered UGA as a graduate transfer from Columbia University. The native of Chantilly, Va., has edged ahead of sophomore incumbent punter Marshall Long via competition in practice and scrimmages, Smart said.

“Cam is ahead of Marshall a little bit,” Smart said. “Just consistency, direction, hang time, those things. Just statistically, he’s a little bit ahead. … [Nizialek] is just punting the ball really good. It’s not that Marshall is punting it bad.”

David Marvin, 6-2, 210, PK

David Marvin also came to UGA as a graduate transfer. He was a four-year starter as the punter and placekicker at Wofford, which competes in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). He has remained “neck-and-neck” with the Bulldogs’ incumbent starter, Rodrigo Blankenship, for both placekicking and kickoff duties. Each of them made 47-yard field goals in the scrimmage last Saturday, and Marvin had a 57-yarder bounce over the cross bar, according to witnesses.

“Both of them have done a great job,” Smart said. “Rodrigo did a great job of kicking off in Saturday’s scrimmage; he had some of the best hang times we’ve had. David did as well, but Rod had a little better hang time.”

Georgia hasn’t hit paydirt on all of its transfers, however. Junior college transfer D’Marcus Hayes, the most ballyhooed of the group, is running third team at left tackle. The Bulldogs had hoped he might earn a starting job when they recruited him from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and brought him in  as an early enrollee.

“He is competing; he’s in there,” Smart said. “D’Marcus is still catching up with the speed of the game. He shows flashes. Some practices you’re like, ‘man that kid looks good, shows quickness.’ He just hasn’t had the consistency that we would like.”

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