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Kirby Smart not worried about what Brenton Cox might bring to Florida this year
The Florida football team has just one consensus 5-star player on its roster. By comparison, Georgia has 14 such players. These rankings don’t mean everything, as evidenced by Florida having a higher AP Poll ranking heading into the game. But the teams that win national championships — which both Georgia and Florida aim to do — tend to do it by accumulating these types of prospects in bulk.
The lone Florida 5-star prospect knows this Georgia team likely better than any of his teammates. But he won’t be taking the field on Saturday, barring a last-minute announcement on his eligibility from the NCAA.
That’s because Brenton Cox started the preseason with Georgia. He was a Bulldog throughout spring practice and was with the team when they started fall camp. But before the first full week of practice was even complete, Cox entered the transfer portal and ended up at Florida. This stung a lot of Georgia fans at the time, given the Bulldogs’ biggest annual rival are the Gators.
Georgia Kirby Smart said at the time he wasn’t overly concerned about what Cox might bring with him to Dan Mullen and Florida. And this week, the Georgia head coach maintained that stance as well.
“Not really. You don’t concern yourself with things you can’t control. They’ve got film so they can watch and see what we do,” Smart said. “It’s not like there’s secrets out there when it’s on tape.”
Smart made a comparison between Cox and Georgia defensive backs coach Charlton Warren, who spent last season as Florida’s cornerbacks coach. Warren and Cox know the opposing players a little better than most, but it’s not like they’ve got the nuclear codes for their old programs.
A formal NCAA decision has not yet been announced on Cox’s status, though prior to the start of the season Florida did state it would seek a waiver for Cox to become eligible this season. But to date, there hasn’t been much public movement on his case.
Cox — who would’ve been a sophomore at Georgia this year — has kept a low profile at Florida, as he hasn’t tweeted in over a month. Even that was just congratulating his new team after a win over Tennessee.
A few former teammates reached out to Cox after he left the Georgia program, but there hasn’t been much communication as both teams have gone about their seasons.
“I was like damn, ‘Brenton Cox is going to Florida,'” junior linebacker Monty Rice said of learning that Cox would be playing for the rival Gators. “But he’s still my dawg and he’s got to do what’s best for him at the end of the day. It’s his life, not mine.
Redshirt sophomore cornerback Eric Stokes shared a similar sentiment and that he wished Cox well going forward. There doesn’t seem to be any ill-will from the team towards Cox.
As for what Georgia might be missing without the former 5-star pass rusher, it’s hard to say. Georgia’s pass rush hasn’t been stellar this year, despite the emergence of redshirt freshman Azeez Ojulari. Freshman Nolan Smith — the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in the 2019 recruiting class — has flashed as well, but the Bulldogs have only 16.0 sacks on the season, putting them in 10th in the SEC.
But Georgia is first in total defense, scoring defense and yards per play allowed in the conference. So it’s clear the defense is still performing at an elite level, even if Smart did call the group’s effort “atrocious” against Kentucky.
If Cox were eligible to play for Florida, it’s unclear what kind of role he would have on this team, given Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard are two of the top edge rushers in the SEC. And before Cox’s departure from Georgia, it looked like he had been passed on the depth chart by the likes of Ojulari, Smith and Walter Grant.
Cox isn’t even the most-high profile 5-star prospect who departed from Georgia in the past calendar year. That would be Justin Fields, who has played a key role in leading Ohio State to a No. 3 ranking in the country. Nor is Cox the first highly-touted recruit to depart Georgia for an SEC East program, as Deangelo Gibbs transferred to Tennessee following the 2018 season.
Cox leaving Georgia was a big talking point when it happened back in August. And should he play and play well next year for Florida, many will wonder about why Georgia “let” such an obviously talented player transfer to a rival, much like what is happening with Fields now.
But for this week, it doesn’t seem like Georgia is all that worried about Cox or how he can help the 2019 Florida team.
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart discusses Dan Mullen ahead of Florida game
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