Bulldogs bid farewell to QB D’Wan Mathis

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Georgia football coach Kirby Smart comments on the decision by quarterback D’Wan Mathis to transfer from the program.

ATHENS — D’Wan Mathis’ time at Georgia has come to an end.

That was expected to be the case when the redshirt freshman quarterback did not travel with the Bulldogs to play South Carolina on the road this past Saturday. As it turns out, Mathis didn’t want to be a distraction to Georgia and was just waiting until Monday to enter his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal.

“He was very hurt and disappointed that things came out before the game,” Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said Monday. “That bothered him because he did not want to be a distraction for the team; he wanted to handle it the right way. He wanted it to come out today when he entered the portal and that is exactly what he asked and that is what we did.”

Smart said he tried to talk Mathis into sticking with the Bulldogs. But with redshirt sophomore JT Daniels now solidly entrenched as Georgia’s starter and Stetson Bennett as the backup, Mathis was pessimistic about reclaiming the job.

“I am excited to see his future,” Smart said. “He’s going to be a really good football player. We want him to stay here; there’s no doubt we want him to stay here. We have encouraged him to stay here. But I also respect that is his decision, and we are going to help him every way we can with a transition. I think he’s got a bright future.”

It certainly can’t be said that the Bulldogs didn’t give Mathis a fair shot. UGA discovered that Mathis had a cyst in his sinus cavity in May of 2019, and he immediately underwent surgery to have it removed. Mathis redshirted while he recovered last season, then was cleared to participate in spring practice in a non-contact capacity. Spring practice subsequently got canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Georgia quarterback D'Wan Mathis (2) runs the ball during the Bulldogs' game with Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Photo by Kevin Snyder)

Credit: Special to the AJC

Georgia quarterback D'Wan Mathis (2) runs the ball during the Bulldogs' game with Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Photo by Kevin Snyder)

Credit: Special to the AJC

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Georgia quarterback D'Wan Mathis (2) runs the ball during the Bulldogs' game with Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Photo by Kevin Snyder)

Credit: Special to the AJC

Credit: Special to the AJC

Mathis received full medical clearance to play over the summer, and competed with graduate transfer Jamie Newman, Daniels, Bennett and freshman Carson Beck in preseason camp. After Newman opted out of the season, Mathis earned the starting job for the Bulldogs’ opener against Arkansas.

Things did not go well against the Razorbacks, and Mathis was replaced by Bennett after six fruitless offensive possessions. Bennett led Georgia to a come-from-behind victory and then started the next five games.

Mathis played at the end of Georgia’s blowout win over Auburn, then relieved an injured Bennett in the Florida game. In total, he appeared in four games, completing 12 of 30 passes for 89 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He also had 18 rushing attempts for 17 yards.

Mathis’ Georgia teammates understand his decision.

“I was close to D’Wan, and me and him had several conversations about it,” said senior tight end Tre’ McKitty, who came to Georgia as a graduate transfer from Florida State. “You know, it’s kind of like the opt-out thing, guys have to make decisions that are best for their future. I had to do the same thing, making a decision that was best for my future, and I just think he’s doing the same thing.”

Said senior wideout Demetris Robertson: “Everyone has different situations. He has to do what’s best for himself and his future. I mean, I wish him the best of luck and does great things.”

Somewhat ironically, Mathis was at UGA only because quarterback Justin Fields transferred to Ohio State after the 2018 season. Mathis was an Ohio State commitment at the time, and the 4-star prospect decided instead to sign with Georgia after the Bulldogs offered him a scholarship.

Smart emphasized that Mathis will leave without any ill will from the Bulldogs.

“He has handled everything first class,” Smart said. “Every conversation he’s had with me has been the right way. He did not want to be a distraction for the team.”

With Mathis gone, Georgia is now left with three scholarship quarterbacks. The Bulldogs also are currently holding a commitment from 5-star quarterback prospect Brock Vandagriff of Bogart.