ATHENS — Here’s another change in the Georgia football program under Kirby Smart: Transfers will not be given a full release to go wherever they want.
At least that’s the case for tailback A.J. Turman, whose release prevents him from transferring to home-state schools Miami and the University of Florida.
Turman, in an interview on Wednesday, said he initially told Smart several months ago that he wanted to transfer. Turman said Smart informed him that he would not give him a full release.
“That’s not what he does; he doesn’t release people like coach (Mark) Richt did,” Turman said.
Turman said he filed an appeal with the NCAA, as is allowed per policy, and met again with Smart. The school’s understanding was that the tailback wanted to transfer closer to his home in Winter Park, Fla. (near Orlando).
Eventually, Turman received an email informing him that he was free to transfer to any school in Florida other than Miami — where Richt is now the head coach — and Florida, an SEC rival.
“I guess that’s just how he does that, and I understand that,” Turman said of Smart. “He has to put his foot down coming to a new school because he doesn’t want everyone trying to get a release. So we’re just not used to it like the kids that didn’t get recruited by him. Because we always were told if we don’t feel at home at the University of Georgia we could leave. And I thought it was still like that. Then coach Kirby … I understand, and I’m glad that I guess I got my release.”
When Richt was the head coach his policy was to release players to go anywhere, his mantra being that “life is too short.” While generous, Georgia often ended up playing some of its former players. Most of the time that was after the player (Nick Marshall, Zach Mettenberger, Johnathan Taylor) first went to a junior college, so a transfer restriction didn’t apply, but some direct transfers to rivals have occurred, such as J.J. Green to Georgia Tech last year.
It’s also a departure from recent cases at UGA in general. Two years ago Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said it was not the school’s policy to restrict transfers.
“If they’re not happy here we’re not going to dictate where they can and can’t go,” McGarity said at the time.
Turman said he wasn’t sure the other terms of the rest of his release, and whether it limited him from going to other schools or others in the SEC.
Turman’s career at Georgia never quite got off the ground, due to what he called “a perfect storm” of injuries and other tailbacks being recruited. He came in between Todd Gurley/Keith Marshall and Nick Chubb/Sony Michel, then suffered a toe injury early in his first season. That resulted in a redshirt, and was still a problem at the beginning of next season. While he starred in two G-Day games, scoring two touchdowns in each, he never got a carry in a real game.
“Between my injuries, and the coaches changing, I feel like the perfect storm just hit me, and it just didn’t work out here for me,” Turman said. “I believe I’m a premiere running back and I can showcase my talent better somewhere else.”
Turman will have two years of eligibility remaining at his new school. In the meantime, he wanted it made clear that he left the university on good terms.
“I just love the University of Georgia, and I’m grateful for all the fans. We have the best fan base, and I’m glad I came here,” Turman said. “Like I said, the perfect storm hit at the perfect time for me and I just didn’t get the opportunity that I thought I should have gotten. But it’s understandable, and I’m ready to move on, and be successful somewhere else.”